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Exclusive! Interview with Coronation Street’s first ever trainee writer by Glenda Young

The Coronation Street blog is privileged to have been in conversation with Mr John Finch.

For those Corrie fans with long memories, the name might ring a few bells. Back when Corrie started in 1960, John became the first trainee writer to be contracted to write for Coronation Street. He later became Editor and then Producer from 1968-9, and along with Harry Kershaw, is the only person to have done all three jobs for The Street.

John’s first Coronation Street script was commissioned in November 1960 for episode 24, screened in March 1961. He became Script Editor for a year in 1961 and wrote 140 scripts with his final episode screened in December 1970; he also co-wrote two episodes with Jim Allen in May 1967. In 1964 John co-wrote a comedy stage play called Coronation Street On The Road.

John explains how he came to write for Granada. “It’s a rather odd story.  I'd sent them a play about Yorkshire miners which they originally accepted and then changed their minds. This was before the station went on air. I turned down some of the series they wanted me to do, but then they gave me the first few scripts of Corrie to read, and Tony Warren’s characters were so marvellous I said yes immediately.”

“It’s hard to say which of the original characters I most enjoyed writing for,” John says.  “I loved them all.. but perhaps Ena Sharples as she reminded me of a relative which made it easy to write. Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner) was great fun, and I was sorry when Denis went."

 "I very much enjoyed writing scenes with Bill Roache (Ken Barlow) and Ann Reid (Valerie Barlow) after they married.  Some of the smaller part characters were a bit of a turn-off, especially if they had phony northern accents.”

“I worked initially with Harry Kershaw, the first editor. We used to knock out the stories for a couple of episodes and then toss a coin to see who did which. Writers came and went, but I somehow survived and became editor, then producer.”

While John was writing for Coronation Street he also wrote several plays for BBC television and some adaptations for Granada. He was an early contributor to The Power Game and other series of that period. He devised and produced City 68 and The System for Granada in 1968-69, and then famously created, edited and wrote A Family At War (52 hours), followed by Sam (39 hours) which won Broadcasting Press Guild and Writers Guild Awards. These were followed by This Year Next Year (13 hours), Spoils of War(20 hours) and then for the BBC Flesh and Blood (20 hours). He also wrote for The Hard Word (Thames), The Life of Riley alongside H. V. Kershaw and produced The Dustbinmen. John has also written a novel called Cuddon Return and is editor of the book Granada Television, the first generation. These days John lives in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales where he’s resided for the past 40 years.  

Find out more about John Finch at his website here.

Read profiles of all of the current Coronation Street writers here.
Copyright: Glenda Young, April 2009



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