This year, the glitzy ceremony took place in the stunning surroundings of Manchester’s very own Palace Theatre, having decamped from its usual home in the capital. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of tickets for the soap-fest, and the opportunity to attend this special red-carpet event in my home town was one I simply could not have missed.
Of course, it isn’t just my home, it’s also that of the nation’s biggest and longest-running soap opera, Coronation Street, and the Corrie cast were joined on their home turf by the stars of EastEnders, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Doctors. And from as early as midday on Saturday the 16th of May, the streets were alive with excited fans lining the pavements in the hope of catching a glimpse of their favourite soap stars as they began to arrive at the nearby Palace Hotel, which is where the official red carpet arrivals took place. Unfortunately, we had to be seated in the theatre before the stars took to their seats, meaning that I wasn’t able to witness the actors and actresses making the short but no doubt bustling walk across from the hotel.
Once inside, the elegant red velvet auditorium played perfect host to this stylish affair. Phillip Schofield hosted the ceremony for his tenth year. He promised when he came on stage that he would do his best to get the stars into the bar as quickly as he possibly could, and once we got into the swing of the prize presenting, there was very little sense of rivalry within the audience; nothing could dampen the celebratory mood. There were a total of 14 prizes awarded throughout the evening, with EastEnders cleaning up with an impressive total of goings, including the biggest of the night, Best British Soap. Their trophies also included both Best Actor and Best Actress, which went to Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale) and Kellie Bright (Linda Carter), respectively.
Kellie did the double, also picking up Best Dramatic Performance, as did Adam, being awarded Best On-Screen Partnership with his screen wife Laurie Brett. No doubt the fact that EastEnders recently celebrated its 30th anniversary gave it the edge over its rivals this year. Rob Gittins, the show’s longest serving writer, was presented with the special Outstanding Achievement Off-Screen accolade; an extremely important award, in my opinion. After all, it’s the people who work behind the scenes that bring these magnificent programmes to our screens night after night, week after week.
Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Doctors each picked up one award; Sally Dynevor (Corrie’s Sally Webster) was awarded Best Comedy Performance, Jeremy Sheffield from Hollyoaks was the Villain Of The Year and Doctors’ Jessica Regan claimed Best Newcomer. Jessica joked in her acceptance speech that it had ‘been a while for Doctors’, and indeed she’s right; the last time BBC One’s daytime offering picked up an award was back in 2010. Sadly, Coronation Street received the fewest awards in the history of the annual ceremony. Whilst it may not currently be at its best, it still remains my favourite and I will forever be a die-hard fan.
The highlight of the night, I’m sure everybody would agree, was this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award, which honoured an all-time soap icon, Coronation Street’s Anne Kirkbride, who tragically died in January, aged just 60. Deirdre Barlow is one of the show’s, and indeed television’s, most recognisable characters. Whether or not you watched the show, everybody knows Deirdre, and the character was a part of so many lives for so long. On-screen husband William Roache (Ken Barlow) and close friend Beverley Callard (Liz McDonald) led the tribute, which also featured a look back at just some of Deirdre’s best storylines and an on-screen eulogy from Paul O’Grady. Anne’s husband, David Beckett, who briefly appeared on screen alongside his wife in 1990, was invited up onto the stage to accept the award on her behalf. He was understandably very emotional during his short but touching speech.
There were tears, there was laughter, there was clapping, there was cheering and as the ceremony drew to end, the stars prepared to head off to their VIP, no-expense-spared after party at The Milton Club on Deansgate. A superb night was had by all. As a self-confessed Corrie fanatic, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening hobnobbing with the show’s most famous faces and certainly won’t forget this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here’s hoping the big bosses in the television world decide to bring the bash up north again in the future.
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