Coronation Street is now entering its 54th year – and it’s still managing to trash EastEnders in the ratings! Given that I’m a Northerner, you’ll probably presume I’m biased in my preference for the cobbles, but as a consumer of all things low-culture, I feel I am highly qualified to judge impartially. Coronation Street has something that EastEnders lacks – the good old-fashioned northern battleaxe. To highlight my point, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favourite women in Coronation Street, all of whom trample all over the matriarchal figures in EastEnders. (Sorry Peggy! – Ed.)
10. Emily Bishop
Emily Bishop – so pointless, yet so amazing all at the same time. She’s managed to spend 53 years on the soap without a proper storyline, and was recently awarded an MBE for the one line a year she delivers. Regardless, the Street wouldn’t be the same without Emily perched in a booth at the Rovers, quietly sipping away at a sherry. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this slideshow of photographs of Emily Bishop set to a backdrop of Adele. Oh YouTube, you really are the gift that keeps on giving.
9. Bet Lynch
Often voted the most iconic soap character of all time, Bet Lynch is a fabulous creature whose combination of clashing animal prints and extra voluminous hair was always going to make her a gay icon. Julie Goodyear gave us some of the most gripping and brilliantly-acted scenes the Street has ever seen, and if it wasn’t for the fact she ruined it slightly with a failed comeback in 2002, an embarrassing stint on Celebrity Big Brother and an incredibly uncomfortable episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, she’d have definitely made my top three.
8. Phyllis Pearce
Phyllis is the forgotten gem of Coronation Street. If you’re in your twenties or below, chances are you’ll only just remember her. She was the old lady with a purple rinse and a voice that sounded a little like a didgeridoo (this sounds like a bizarre comparison, but watch this clip and tell me you disagree). She may have been an old lady, but she certainly wasn’t an Emily Bishop-style sherry-sipper. Phyllis’ drink of choice was a pint of Guinness, and her filthy Guinness breath was probably the main reason her love for Percy Sugden went unrequited for so many years…
7. Sally Webster
Sally Webster is a bit of an unsung hero. While she hasn’t had many big storylines in recent years, her ability to brighten any episode with her constant social climbing is second to none. When she’s not too busy trying (and failing) to assert her non-existent authority at the factory, Sally can be found relaxing in her conservatory with a glass of chardonnay. She’d be happy for you to join her, but please respect her ‘no beer in the conservatory’ rule – after all, drinking beer in the conservatory is terribly “uncouthed”.
6. Vera Duckworth
Not a day goes by where I don’t miss Vera’s presence. The greatest thing about Vera was how unashamedly common she was, from the iconic moment she was caught shoplifting tinned food at Bettabuys, to the tacky underwear she used to buy in a bid to entice Jack into bed. In addition to this, her ridiculously Northern accent was so broad that even I, as a Mancunian, found it somewhat amusing. In terms of wardrobe, her fabulous earring collection was second only to her penchant for ridiculous wedding hats. Corrie weddings have never been the same since our Vee died.
5. Blanche Hunt
Blanche was the queen of killer quotes. Call me emotionally over-invested, but the day Maggie Jones died, I cried into my pillow. Not only was she down with the gays – “I have no problem with the gays Deirdre, I’d walk on hot coals for Paul O’Grady” – but she delivered so much sass she may as well have been a gay man herself. Of all the insults she delivered over the years, my favourite was most definitely her description of Liz McDonald – “Skirt no bigger than a belt, too much eyeliner, and roots as dark as her soul”. Incredible.
4. Rita Sullivan
Rita is glamour personified. Often referred to as a British Bette Midler, Rita can mainly be found behind the till at the Kabin with a trowel full of make-up, earrings bigger than her head and shoulder pads straight from the wardrobe department of Dynasty. But Rita isn’t one-dimensional, oh no. She’s also a great listener. No matter what problem is thrown your way (affair with a neighbour, serial killer in the family, contraction of the anthrax virus), you can always rely on Rita to make you a brew, sit you down and make everything seem OK again with that soothing voice of hers. What a girl.
3. Audrey Roberts
Aside from the now infamous Audrey Roberts Noise (of which I am the proud creator), Audrey has a number of stock words and phrases that she delivers to perfection in almost every episode. Until his untimely death in 1999, Audrey’s greatest utterance had to be “ALFEH!”, in reference to her husband, Alf Roberts. Since then, Audrey mainly entertains with “ACTUALLEH” (actually), “DJYEKNOW” (do you know) and “SARLON” (salon). If Corrie ever decide not to renew her contract, I’d like to see Sue Nicholls branch out into audio books. I’m envisaging literary classics such as Pride And Prejudice read aloud in Audrey-speak. Sublime.
2. Gail Platt
Gail is the Elizabeth Taylor of Weatherfield. She’s had five unsuccessful marriages, including one to a serial killer and another to a man who tried to fake his own death, then killed himself in the process. But fear not, Gail has remained strong throughout, and would definitely have your back in a fight. In terms of fashion, Gail has continued to champion the polo-neck across four decades, and even wore a polo-neck wedding dress at one of her many weddings. If that isn’t enough to convince you that she’s incredible, I suggest you watch this fabulously awkward ‘End of Part One’ she did in the ’70s. Such hand/arm stamina.
1. Deirdre Barlow
I could write a novel outlining my reasons for placing Deirdre Barlow at Number One, but I’ll have to stick to an aesthetically pleasing paragraph. When Deirdre arrived on the street in 1972, her voice was relatively high-pitched. Thanks to her 186-a-day smoking habit, her voice has since transitioned from regular female to Barry White, except she’s a much better singer. Throw in a penchant for wearing chain belts and a love for stuffed marrows, and what do you end up with? The greatest woman ever to grace the cobbles. Even Snoop Dogg thinks so (Google it. Your mind will be blown).
Follow the amazing Martyn Hett on Twitter @MartynHett