9 December 1960: Coronation Street is first broadcast

The first episode of Coronation Street, the world's longest-running soap opera, was broadcast live on this day in 1960. But its was far from assured.

The mournful wail of a lone cornet in the evening must be one of the most recognisable sounds in British television. For over 50 years, the theme music to Coronation Street has beckoned millions to the sofa every week.

It is in many ways the most unlikely of siren songs. Drab and depressing, it depicted life in the fictional town of Weatherfield, on a bleak, working-class terraced street originally called Florizel Street by its creator Tony Warren.

Later renamed Coronation Street after Edward VII's enthronement and the architectural era of the houses, the soap set out to examine "the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the North of England", wrote Warren, "and, in doing so, entertain."

It was an idea spun out of the “kitchen sink” genre of the 1950s, with its angry young men, and it didn't go down well with the executives of Granada Television, who found it dreary. Nonetheless, they were persuaded to make 13 pilot episodes, the first of which was aired on 9 December 1960 and it was performed live.

The programme's representation of working-class families struck a chord with viewers, who tuned in to watch student Ken Barlow (still played by William Roache) coming to terms with his humble origins. Right from the get-go,Coronation Street acquired a loyal following.

With its north-west accents and use of regional dialect, Coronation Street contrasted with the London middle-class focus preferred by the BBC. Commercial television had only been around for five years, and the programme helped give Britain's second channel an identity, as well as ensure the success of its maker, Granada.

In 2010, Coronation Street became the longest-running soap opera in the world, and it has consistently attracted some of the highest ratings in television. And if you find yourself in Australia, New Zealand or Canada, you can still tune into life on Britain's favourite street.

Recommended

The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast: nuggets of positivity in an extended bear market

Merryn and John talk about he need for higher wages and lower house prices, and why the fact that this is the least dramatic bear market they’ve ever …
1 Jul 2022
Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now
Investment strategy

Don’t try to time the bottom – start buying good companies now

Markets are having a rough time, so you may be tempted to wait to try to call the bottom and pick up some bargains. But that would be a mistake, says …
1 Jul 2022
Share tips of the week – 1 July
Share tips

Share tips of the week – 1 July

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
1 Jul 2022
How to invest in copper, the most important metal in the world
Industrial metals

How to invest in copper, the most important metal in the world

As the world looks to electrify and try to move away from fossil fuels, copper looks set to be the biggest beneficiary. But how can you invest? Rupert…
30 Jun 2022

Most Popular

How to find the best dividend stocks
Income investing

How to find the best dividend stocks

Stocks that pay dividends tend to outperform the market over the long run - as well as providing an income. Here, Rupert Hargreaves explains the best …
28 Jun 2022
Gold has been incredibly boring to own – but that’s no bad thing right now
Gold

Gold has been incredibly boring to own – but that’s no bad thing right now

Stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies have all seen big falls this year. But gold remains at its one-year average. It may be dull, but it’s doing what it…
29 Jun 2022
What the end of the 1970s bear market can teach today’s investors
Stockmarkets

What the end of the 1970s bear market can teach today’s investors

The 1970s saw the worst bear market Britain has ever seen, with stocks tumbling 70%. Things have changed a lot since then, says Max King. But there ar…
28 Jun 2022