When Corrie’s Ken visited Dunstable

A STAR from a new television series called Coronation Street came to Dunstable in June 1962 to open the Priory Church fete.

Pictured in front of the crowd in Priory Meadow is actor William Roache, who in 1962 was beginning to become better known as Ken Barlow – a role he created in Coronation Street’s first episode in December 1960 and which he has been playing ever since.

The actor, pictured above right today, celebrated his 80th birthday last month with a party on the Corrie set.

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His speech in Priory Meadow was carried out under difficulties – the church bells began ringing to celebrate a wedding just as he started, and drowned out most of his words.

The local MP, Norman Cole, was also on the platform – that’s the back view of his head on the left.

William Roache’s fame in 1962 was by no means well established and the Dunstable Gazette’s report of the event muddled him up with another actor, Frank Pemberton, who played his father in the early episodes of the soap, pictured above centre.

It provided a little talking point a few years later when he returned to Dunstable to judge a beauty contest in the parish hall and found that a fellow judge was the editor of the Gazette – one John Buckledee!

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The Priory Church fete in those days was a huge affair. Not content with persuading Ken Barlow to open the 1962 event, the church also booked Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen to play during a barbecue that evening. The band had just topped the charts with Midnight In Moscow.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, now chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society

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