As Coronation Street celebrates its diamond jubilee, is it time to take it seriously as the chronicler of our times?
On 9 December 1960, workers across the country clocked off after a week’s toil on the factories, steel plants and coal mines that made up much of heavy-industrialised Britain. With their wage packets, many would have made their way to one of the country’s 3500 working men’s clubs or to the Mecca dance halls. Others headed to the local pictures to see Kirk Douglas star in the latest blockbuster Spartacus.
For the vast majority of the working class however, it would be a simple Friday night in front of the nation’s favourite pastime: the television. Over the course of the 1950s the number of sets in Britain had increased to ten million and at peak viewing times half of the population was tuned in.
Radical in its simplicity, Coronation Street was an early form of reality television
On that December night sixty years ago, as the BBC offered up a Tonight special presented by Cliff Michelmore, viewers of ITV were about to participate in a social and cultural revolution. At 7pm, Granada unveiled a new six-part soap opera exploring “the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the north of England”. Three years after his first script had been rejected by the BBC, Tony Warren’s Coronation Street had arrived.
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