I’m not quite as old as Corrie

Today marks the beginning of the 50th birthday week for a huge British institution. Its official birthday is December 9, but this whole week will see drama-filled episodes, celebratory quiz shows, live action from the set and a whole lot of partying. Happy birthday, Coronation Street!

It’s been so heart-warming to see the place that Corrie appears to hold in the nation that is gripped with frost and snow, spending cuts and student riots, spy allegations and leaked documents, a beleaguered coalition government and a failed bid to host the 2018 Football World Cup. In the midst of all of this doom and gloom, the soapie that is Coronation Street continues to intrigue with its familiar, topical storyline and cast of well-loved local actors.

I’ve not watched this soapie, but I know many people who do and they love it. The celebrity campaign running on host television channel, ITV, bears further testimony to its viewership of 12 million faithfuls: stars of stage and screen talk about how Corrie has been a familiar and well-loved part of British life over the last half-century.

I understand that Coronation Street has been among the most financially lucrative programmes on commercial television in the UK and, on 17 September 2010, it became the world’s longest-running TV soap opera currently in production. Cadbury’s provided advertising support from 1996 until 2007 and I remember some years ago seeing the chocolate model of the famous street at Cadbury World, the chocolate factory’s museum in Bourneville, Birmingham.

In my teenage years, living in Zimbabwe, we became hooked on the South African soapie, The Villagers. Our Sunday evenings revolved around the exploits of the funny, gossipy and delightful characters that populated the fictitious mining village of the title. I’m not too sure how long The Villagers ran, but its successor,“Isidingo”, premiered in July 1998. With daily episodes, it continues through to today, covering topical issues and fording controversy and scandal with entertaining relevance. My parents number among their huge fan base, and they can’t bear to miss an episode ever.

Some of my friends I worked with in Cape Town were hooked on American soapies, and their evenings just weren’t the same without All My Children, Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara and a clear favourite, fondly known as The Bold. (The Bold and the Beautiful.) One of my friends told me that when she caught a mini-bus taxi home, if she had not been safely delivered to her door by 5.30, she would jump out of the taxi wherever it was at 5.30 and run into the nearest house to watch The Bold. Everyone in her neighbourhood felt the same way, so unexpected visitors were always welcome.

So here in London, I watch with a twinge of envy as the nation cheers on its well-loved soap opera and cast of cherished, household characters. Many happy returns, Corrie! I look forward to being your age.

Sunshine signing off for today!