Anne Kirkbride: Tributes paid to 'loveable' Coronation Street star

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Media captionBill Roache was among the Coronation Street stars to attend what director Terry Dyddgen-Jones called ''a fantastic, warm, human, northern farewell for Annie''

Tributes have been paid to "loveable and funny" Anne Kirkbride - during a memorial service for the Coronation Street actress at Manchester Cathedral.

Stars - both past and present - of the ITV soap were among 600 people to attend the service for Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow for 42 years.

She died in January, aged 60, following a battle with cancer.

Beverley Callard, who plays Liz McDonald in the soap, said: "We are so thankful she has been in our lives."

'Stick of dynamite'

Kirkbride was like "a stick of dynamite" in that everyone would know when she arrived in the building, Callard added.

She told the service it was "fantastic" there was "so much love in one room for one person".

She joked: "That smoking shelter at work will never be the same again."

William Roache - Kirkbride's on screen husband Ken Barlow - gave a reading of the David Harkins poem She Is Gone.

Elle Mulvaney, who plays Amy Barlow in the programme, paid tribute to "my on-screen grandma".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anne Kirkbride played the part of Deirdre Barlow for 42 years
Image copyright PA
Image caption Actresses Sue Johnston (centre) and Michelle Collins attended the memorial service
Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Le Vell and girlfriend Louise Gibbons were also among those attending

Mulvaney, 12, said Kirkbride had always made "everyone laugh on set", saying: "The hours soon passed by very quickly."

"Annie always had everyone laughing and groaning at times when she was singing on set at the top of her voice," she added.

The show's executive producer Kieran Roberts said Kirkbride had been "warm, kind-hearted, generous, spirited, talented and fun-loving".

He described her as "a consummate professional" who had the gift of making everyone feel special around her.

'Light, laughter and love'

"Annie we thank you for bringing so much light, laughter and love into all our lives for all those years," he added.

Kirkbride started in Coronation Street in 1972 as Deirdre Hunt. In the 1980s, one of the soap's most famous storylines hinged on whether she would stay with Ken Barlow. She was married four times in the programme, twice to Ken.

Deirdre Barlow had been off screen for some months prior to Kirkbride's death, while the actress was given a break by the show's producers.

The Cathedral's subdean, Philip Barratt, conducted the service, with hymns performed by Manchester Cathedral choir.

There were readings and tributes from members of the cast and executive producer Kieran Roberts, as part of a celebration of Kirkbride's life.

Image copyright Peter Byrne/PA
Image caption Members of the public are able to attend the service on a first-come, first-seated basis

Her actor husband Dave Beckett helped the Coronation Street team produce the service and was involved in every aspect of the celebration, including the choice of music and readings.

Beckett ensured his late wife had the last laugh when the opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune belted out of the speakers before the real closing music was played.

Other music included a recording of Il Dolce Suono performed by Maria Callas, a live rendition of Caruso from classical tenor Tom Spence and a performance of Mozart's Sonata in G by Chetham's School of Music pupils.

Two self-filmed video clips of the actress joking around in her living room by singing and playing the harmonica were also played.

An exhibition of artwork which Kirkbride photographed and painted throughout her life has also been set up.

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