Tuesday 21 November 2017

Comment: Free 'The Fair City One'... AND END OUR MISERY

Fair City's Katy
Fair City's Katy
Ciaran, played by Johnny Ward with Katy, played by Amilia Clarke-Stewart in a Fair City scene

Pat Stacey

Do you recall "The Weatherfield One"? You surely do if you're a long-standing Coronation Street fan and of sufficient age to remember when Deirdre Barlow, played by the late Anne Kirkbride, who died of breast cancer in 2015, was the hottest thing on t'Street after Betty's hotpots.

Courtesy of that strange alchemy that only seasoned Coronation Street scriptwriters seem able to work, Deirdre was for years television's unlikeliest man-eater.

With her plasma screen-sized glasses, hyena laugh and 40-a-day Silk Cut habit, which caused her to emit a rasping wheeze that sounded like an arthritic Count Dracula trying to push open the lid of a rusty metal casket buried in a gravel pit, Deirdre was simply irresistible to men.


You want to talk about sexual attraction? Deirdre had more of the stuff than a Playboy bunny with a powerful magnet stuffed into each bra cup. Blokes just queued up to be devoured by her.

In the end, though, she always came back to Ken Barlow, the Street's resident Guardian-reading intellectual, who made a face like a man chewing on shards of glass whenever Deirdre interrupted him while he was trying to enjoy a bit of Nabokov. But there was one affair, in 1998, that nearly finished Deirdre off.

A chancer called Jon Lindsay wooed her into giving him money for a mortgage. When she learned he was a conman and tried to get it back, he accused her of theft and made it look like she was the "brains" (ha!) behind his various fraudulent activities. Poor Deirdre was sent down for 18 months.

Thus the "Free the Weatherfield One" campaign was born. There were front-page stories in the UK tabloids, think-pieces in the cerebral broadsheets, T-shirts, car stickers and petitions from viewers.


Prime minister Tony Blair, a man used to blurring fact and fiction, not least in the matter of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even instructed his Home Secretary Jack Straw to intervene on Deirdre's behalf.

Is it possible, do you think, that Enda Kenny might take a leaf out of Blair's book and throw what's left of his political weight behind the "Free Katy" online petition that an exasperated Fair City viewer launched this week, and which has already clocked up more than 6,000 signatures?

I know he has a few other things on his mind at the moment, but really, the Katy problem has become so ridiculous there's a very real danger that hordes of irate Fair City fans will organise a mass burning of TV licences outside RTE reception - assuming they don't die of boredom first.

Ciaran, played by Johnny Ward with Katy, played by Amilia Clarke-Stewart in a Fair City scene
Ciaran, played by Johnny Ward with Katy, played by Amilia Clarke-Stewart in a Fair City scene

For those not in the know, a character in the soap called Ciaran kidnapped a character called Katy last May. Eleven months on, he still has her under lock and key, while the storyline is going absolutely nowhere except around in ever decreasing circles.

We're well used to soap operas dragging stories out for as long as possible. EastEnders is infamous for keeping plots on the boil in order to save the big denouement for the Christmas Day episode. Eleven months, though - Jesus!

Football seasons don't last 11 months. US election campaigns don't last 11 months. Pregnancies don't last 11 months. My middle daughter's journey from her mother's womb to her first toddle across the living room carpet didn't last 11 months. A soap opera plot should absolutely never last 11 months.

There are some hopeful signs that everyone's ordeal might end soon, though. Poor Katy is feeling sick. Welcome to our world, Katy.


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