Tony Warren can still recall in vivid detail the sights, sounds, smells and, most memorably, the characters of his Salford in the 1950s. As Warren tells it, the human, tragicomic, sensual detail of that world was irresistible. And while it was beginning to be represented on stage and in literature, Warren wanted to capture it for the small screen and "preserve it, like flies in amber." On 9 December 2010 Warren's creation, Coronation Street, will celebrate its 50th birthday; five decades as part of the fabric of British television. To commemorate the anniversary Warren, along with producers Phil Collinson and Kieran Roberts as well as cast members David Neilson and Kym Marsh joined Mark Lawson on stage at BFI Southbank.
Warren continues to act as a consultant on the show and, like the actors, gets regular questions about plots and characters from a persistent and devoted fanbase. It's a problem he faces in a different way to Marsh and Neilson, who also have to contend with a public who naturally confuse them with their characters on screen. Both share stories of confrontations with viewers where the force of the show's reality for its audience is lovingly illustrated. Roberts and Collinson talk about the consistency of the show and its ability to still capture the stuff of ordinary life and conversation. Longevity has allowed the audience to live alongside the characters and Roberts suggests that the commitment so many people sustain is rewarded by a level of involvement that is impossible to replicate in any other form of drama. An unprecedented permanence also leads to an emotional overlap between lives on and off screen for the actors who depict these characters. This is most conspicuous, Marsh says, when people leave the show, with fictional relationships and real relationships drawing to a close together.