Priscilla John describes how she introduced new actors to Coronation Street

I was assigned to Coronation Street, and that was my first true love. I was more or less told, “You are totally, for the next year, you are working with us and no one else. These actors, the producer Bill Podmore, these people, they are working to keep Granada going. Coronation Street is our bread and butter. Don’t let them down and don’t stray off doing other stuff. They’ll know. They’re like horses. They know if you don’t like them.” Well of course, I did like them, and we all got on. I mean, some of them came to my wedding in 1980! They were just the most lovely, lovely, lovely people, and we had such fun. And I introduced a few new actors to them. Let’s see who I bought in. Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin), I think I brought in Fred Feast (Fred Gee), Cheryl Murray (Suzie Birchall), and we all used to attend the writers’ meetings, every three weeks, there’d be a big meeting, up on the sixth floor in one of those huge directors’ board meeting rooms, and you could look out onto the whole of Manchester. And sometimes I would be thinking about what we got up to the night before more than anything! They said, “What do you think, Priscilla?” “What?” I said, “Perhaps we could do with some more younger people in this, because the youngsters are not really represented.” “What do you mean?” Anyway, they brought in Suzie Birchall, and they didn’t much like her. Because you meet all the writers and you have a drink with them, you can say, “Well, John, when was the last time you were on the top of the bus? When was the last time you heard kids speak?” And that is true today, isn’t it? A lot of writers don’t get out enough. 

They lose that connection, don’t they?

So that’s how it was. And I think it took quite some time for the younger generation to come in. It certainly wasn’t in my era. I bought in Vera Duckworth. They wanted someone one week to come in and interrupt Rita in the shop. And they wanted somebody to come in and say, “Excuse me, I’m not standing here for the good of my health.” And I said, “Oh, I know someone who could do that. It’s Liz Dawn.” And anyway, they tried her out. And they thought she was a bit over the top. But in the end, they brought her back and she became the dearly beloved Vera Duckworth. Also, her friend, Ida Clough, played by Helene Palmer. Now, where did I meet all these people? At working men’s clubs! They were all stand-ups.

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