By Sean Atkinson
Deidre Barlow, played by Anne Kirkbride, lit up the television screens of many over her forty-two years on Coronation Street. Everyone could relate to the character of Deidre Barlow.
In 1972, a young Deidre Barlow, walked down the cobbles of Coronation Street, with her signature glasses, which became an iconic feature in British television. From the offset Deidre turned the heads of the men and in 1975 she fell for young builder Ray Langton. Viewers witnessed the birth of Tracy Barlow, but also the first of Deidre’s struggles. Deidre found herself trapped within her own home, expected to bring up her daughter, while Ray did not face up to the same parenting responsibility. This reflected the life that many women found themselves in, being married, giving up the new freedoms available to women in a post second wave feminist world and feeling that their lives had become restricted.
Deidre’s popularity was reflected in her second wedding to long standing character Ken Barlow, played by William Roache. This episode saw 24 million viewers tune in and even beat the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. The first soap love triangle also took the UK by storm. Deidre found herself caught between the laid back Ken Barlow and the adventurous charm of Mike Baldwin. Once again Ken attempted to trap Deidre inside a home, without ambition or excitement. Mike provided an opportunity for Deidre to feel special and provided her with a freedom. This storyline gained media attention and made the front pages of newspapers. It also happened to reflect the changing ambitions in women’s lives.
The above picture could be found on t-shirts, newspapers and even the news on the television. ‘Free the Weatherfield One’, became a phrase that showed how popular Deidre Barlow had become as a woman that captured the imagination and hearts of the British public. When she was wrongly imprisoned in 1998 for a storyline that saw Deidre being conned into committing fraud, the public made their voices heard, with even the Prime Minister having a say in Parliament.
Over the years Deidre portrayed a woman who struggled with heartbreak over and over again, but kept bouncing back. Strong minded and often independent, she certainly didn’t let Ken’s view on life hold her back. As with most representation of women, Deidre proved to be a dedicated mother, always supporting and sticking up for her troubled daughter Tracy. Everyone laughed with Deidre and her family in 2008 when Coronation Street produced one its best comedy scenes. Viewers witnessed Deidre, Ken, Blanche and Peter at an AA meeting. It provided great chemistry; clever writing but most importantly it captured the viewers’ interest and reflected the changing nature of immediate families.