In Depth

Five things you didn't know about Corrie star Anne Kirkbride

Actress who had played Deirdre Barlow since 1972 dies aged 60 after short battle with cancer

Coronation Street star Anne Kirkbride, known to millions as Deirdre Barlow, has died at the age of 60 after a battle with cancer. After joining the soap at the age of 18, Kirkbride's four-decade career on the cobbles included four on-screen marriages, an infamous affair, her trusty pair of trademark spectacles and a stint in jail after being wrongly convicted of fraud. Even the then prime minister, Tony Blair, joined those calling for her release from prison, as the British public campaigned to "Free the Weatherfield One".

Here are five things you might not know about the actress:

She wanted to be a cleaner

Last night William Roache, who played Deirdre's husband Ken Barlow, said Coronation Street had lost "one of its iconic characters" – but Kirkbride once revealed that she had actually wanted to be a cleaner rather than an actress. "At the back of my mind, I'd always quite fancied being a cleaner – I never dreamed I'd be a TV star," she told the Daily Mirror. Kirkbride said she even occasionally cleaned the Granada toilets to relieve her boredom between scenes.

She rivalled Diana and Charles ratings

Around 24 million people tuned in to watch Deirdre and Ken tie the knot in 1981, almost matching the 28.4 million UK viewers who watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding the same week. Such was the viewers' obsession with their relationship, news of Deirdre's return to Ken after her affair with Mike Baldwin in 1983 was broadcast on the scoreboard during half-time at a Manchester United match. The words "Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0" prompted huge cheers from the crowd at Old Trafford.

She was a talented artist

Born to Enid and Jack Kirkbride, a cartoonist who worked for the Oldham Evening Chronicle, the actress inherited her father's artistic talents and enjoyed photography and painting. Her work was displayed in the Feel Creative gallery in Didsbury, Lancashire, where she lived. The Daily Telegraph described some of her images as echoing "something of the solitude and glamour" of Edward Hopper's work. "Others have the mottled, warm light of the Impressionists," said the newspaper.

She was terrified of losing Corrie job

Kirkbride admitted that she had "never really been that keen" on acting, and described the long hours on set as "soul destroying" and "worse than being delayed at Alicante airport for five hours, because there are no shops". However, she loved the rare moments when she was in lots of dramatic scenes and said she could never imagine walking out. "The thought of this show coming off or me losing my job fills me with terror," she said.

She battled depression

One year into her real-life marriage to David Beckett in 1991, Kirkbride was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer affecting her neck. After being given the all-clear and putting the illness behind her, Kirkbride was diagnosed with clinical depression. In several interviews, the actress said that anti-depressants had given her a new lease of life. "It was like I got to the real me finally, and was able to bring it out and share it with people properly – and live," she said. "I feel like I'm living for the first time in my life, really living, instead of just standing watching other people do it and trying to copy what they did."

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