From “Coronation Street” To “Brexit”

Did you know there has never been a black (West Indian or West African) family in Coronation Street?
Thats a bit odd …after all Corrie is set in fictional Weatherfield (real life Salford)…although a Salford street with Ken Barlow, Emily Bishop and Norris Cole seems unlikey.
You might think “what about Dev and his family?”. But Dev is of course an Asian and very westernised shopkeeper. Or you might be thinking of one of the stitchers in the “knicker factory” but she was a single person. Her family did not live in Corrie.

The producers did actually think about introducing a black family in the early 1970s but turned it down on the basis that the “Ogdens” would be racist. The Ogdens (Stan and Hilda) succeeded the Tanners as the most stereotypical working class family in the street.
Corrie re-cycles characters. The Ogden family were replaced by the Battersbys who were the most unruly family in the street until tamed. Then the Battersby family gave way to the Windass family.
In the same way gossipy old timer Albert Tatlock was re-written as Percy Sugden who was re-written as Norris Cole.
Thus Corrie is kept in a time capsule. Little to do with 21st century north of England. All that is missing is a cheery song from Gracie Fields and George Formby’s little stick of Blackpool rock.
Salford as seen thru the prism of nostalgia for a north of England that has been dead for half a century and thru the patronising eyes of Granada TV producers.
Yet that anecdote about why there are no black families in Corrie worries me. The patronising and insulting version is that the the working class up north are racist.

The three big English “soaps” are Coronation Street (set in Salford), Eastenders (set in east end of London) and Emmerdale (set in rural Yorkshire).
Real life drama?
Hardly…for real life is rarely mentioned.
A few years ago, “Eastenders” did feature some cast members mention a General Election and even a World Cup. The set on Albert Square was suitably dressed with election posters but even gritty drama (?) like Eastenders steers clear of anything that looks like real life.
For nearly a month, my wife and I amused ourselves during Corrie, Eastenders and Emmerdale by trying to guess how the characters would vote in the EU Referendum.

Is it important that “soaps” (ie a form of entertainment) feature Politics?
Insofar as the “soaps” have any pretence about real people with real problems, then I think it is important.
Take Carla Lane who seized the moment in the 1960s by writing “The Liver Birds”. Back then, the North of England was cool. But Carla Lane de-camped to London and wrote the less gritty “Butterflies”. Her other big series “Bread” was set in Liverpool but the Scousers did not like that series…a parody on them rather than an accurate presentation.
But of course the London critics loved it.
It was how the metropolitans saw the “north”…workshy, welfare-scroungers.
Of course London does not know the North of England.
The British Labour Party sent Tony B Liar north to Sedgefield, David Milliband to South Shields, Peter Mandelson to Hartlepool, Ed Miliband to Doncaster, Hillary Benn to Leeds and Yvette Cooper to Castleford.
The disconnect between Labour and the “north” is pathetic.
For all London knows is “that it is grim up north” ….from the 1950s, “This Sporting Life”, “A Taste of Honey”, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and “Billy Liar” have presented an image of the north . It was not a sanitised version.
But “Coronation Street” has consistently presented a sanitised version of the “north” and it has misled London.
Caroline Ahearne, who died at the weekend presented a more accurate version of a forgotten and marginalised demographic…funny but never really cosy in “The Royle Family”.
But London never really got it.
The “north” voted for Brexit.
Not all the “north” of course. The great metropolitan areas voted to REMAIN. But a lot of people in left-behind towns and villages voted to LEAVE.
It surprised London and the TV News sent reporters north to interview people who had dared to vote for something that London did not believe in their interest.
I dont suppose we can say how “Weatherfield” voted….but we do know how Blackburn, Burnley, Oldham, St Helens etc voted.
What would Jim Royle have said to a BBC reporter who asked him how he voted. “Europe….my arse!” obviously.

The real disconnect is not just within the Disunited Kingdom.
England itself is broken.
Can it be fixed.?

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2 Responses to From “Coronation Street” To “Brexit”

  1. Political Tourist says:

    Some of my best friends are………

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