Entertainment & Arts

William Roache to pay tribute to Anne Kirkbride at TV awards

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Media captionActor Bill Roache, aka Ken Barlow: "It's going to be bleak without Anne"

Coronation Street actor William Roache will deliver a tribute to his former co-star Anne Kirkbride at the National Television Awards in London later.

The actor, who plays Kirkbride's on-screen husband Ken Barlow, will take to the stage at the ceremony, which will be screened live on ITV.

Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow, died from a short illness on Monday.

On Tuesday, Roache said: "To have her as a partner for the past 40 years, I couldn't have been more blessed."

He remembered her as an "impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama".

He said: "I feel Anne's loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away."

Many of Kirkbride's other co-stars will also be at the National Television Awards (NTA) ceremony, where Coronation Street will be in the running for the best serial drama prize.

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Image caption A tribute to Anne Kirkbride was left in the green room of the old Coronation Street studios
Image copyright PA
Image caption She played the wife of Ken Barlow, played by William Roache, for many years

The ITV soap already holds the title after winning last year. The NTA winners are voted for by the public.

Bookmaker William Hill has reported a late run of money for Coronation Street to win the serial drama award, although EastEnders is still the favourite.

Filming of the ITV soap was suspended on Tuesday as the cast and crew came to terms with Kirkbride's death.

Her husband David Beckett said she died "peacefully" in a Manchester hospital.

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Image caption Anne Kirkbride's Coronation Street career spanned more than 40 years
Image copyright PA
Image caption Kirkbride was in the Rovers Return when the Duchess of Cornwall visited the set

Kate Ford, who played daughter Tracy, tweeted: "Heartbroken at the loss of my friend and beautiful on screen mummy."

Actor Nigel Havers, who played Lewis Archer in the soap, told the BBC: "It was great to do Coronation Street with her.

"When you're in a show like Coronation Street, you're in everyone's sitting room four times a week. When they suddenly die, it's like losing a friend, for everybody."

Coronation Street's creator Tony Warren said: "Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street."

'Free Deirdre'

Kirkbride started in Coronation Street in 1972 as Deirdre Hunt and became known over the years for her character's large glasses and husky voice.

She was involved in some of the soap's most famous storylines, including Deirdre's love triangle with Ken and Mike Baldwin, and the real-life campaign to "free Deirdre" when she was jailed in 1998.

The campaign - the result of her character being duped into a mortgage fraud by fiance Jon Lindsay - was even backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

She was married four times in the programme, twice to Ken.

The National Television Awards are on ITV from 19:30 to 22:00.

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