Thursday, 30 September 2010

1983: The "How Should Len Fairclough Die?" Competition...

By September 1983, the news that actor Peter Adamson had been sacked from his role as Len Fairclough in Coronation Street was public knowledge. And a sad Corrie time it was (see our post on Len here).

But with Len on his way out, and the character already absent from our screens for several months, conjecture started about how he was was to meet his end.

The Sunday Mirror, September 11, 1983, tapped into the issue and presented a competition:

It's the question millions of Coronation Street fans have been asking: "How will Len Fairclough be written out of the series?"

Peter Adamson, as Fairclough, is as much a part of The Street as the Rovers Return. He was one of the first characters to appear when the series began 23 years ago.

So how do the scriptwriters get rid of him?

Len has dropped a few bricks in his time. He has been in more than a few punch-ups, and has never been slow to voice his opinions.

He has a son from his previous marriage, so he could be involved in his father's permanent disappearance. There hasn't been a street "death" since Ernie Bishop was shot [oh yes there had - Renee Roberts in 1980 - Andy], so Len might easily be involved in something equally dramatic.

He was last seen in the series on May 1 [it was actually May 11 - Andy], when he was working on Mike Baldwin's new Graffiti Club.

If you were a Coronation Street scriptwriter, how would YOU end Len's days? Write to us, telling in no more than 150 words how YOU think Len should be written out.

The writer of the entry we think best will win a super Ferguson Video cassette player worth £560.

The winner will also receive a marvellous Granada video cassette called The Magic Of Coronation Street...

Weren't VCRs EXPENSIVE?!! No wonder only 5% of the UK population had them in 1980 and around 25% by the middle of the decade!

Brilliant prizes - The Magic Of Coronation Street was the show's first EVER home video release, from 1982.

So who won the competition? Let's press on a week...


Let Len go with dignity. That's the demand of thousands of Sunday Mirror readers over the fate of Coronation Steet's tough-guy star.

We asked YOU to write the script for the Finish Of Fairclough.

And there is only one word to decribe the response to our great competition. Staggering.

Your letters came by the sackful.

Nearly all of them were caring, most were dramatic, many were gory and some well... fiendish!

Lots of you "killed" Len off in a car crash, or a fall from the Graffiti Club roof, or from electrocution when he drilled through cables.

Others had him mugged, killed in an explosion, drowned - and even sucked down into sewers.

But some of the more bizarre endings had him choking on an oyster, drowning in a vat of Newton and Ridley's bitter, killed by space invaders, bitten by a rabid dog at Sharon's kennels or eating a poisoned pie given to him by Bet Lynch!

Len has to go because Peter Adamson, who plays the character, has been sacked.

He last appeared on May 1 [11th - Andy] at work on Mike Baldwin's new Graffiti Club. Granada have said that Len is not to be brought back to the studios to act out his final scene. They want him killed off.

The winning entry, described as "simple and dramatic", went like this:

It is lunch-time at the Rovers. In walks Rita Fairclough...

Rita: "A vodka and a pint for the old man. He'll be here in a bit - he's just finishing some soldering."

Fred pours the drinks. At that moment an explosion shakes the building. The talking stops. Dust flutters down.

Fred: "What the 'ell were that?"

The door bursts open, Eddie rushes in.

"It's the yard. Fairclough's yard, the whole lot's blown up."

Rita: "Oh my God. What about Len? Have you seen him?"

She rushes out.

Next scene: Fairclough's yard. Fire engines, lots of noise, shouting, hustle and bustle, flames and smoke.

Fireman emerging from smoke speaks to waiting ambulance man: "Only one body. Didn't stand a chance. Looks like a Propane bottle blew up."

Camera pans to a shocked Rita.

Flashback to the Rovers bar... Len's untouched pint. Fade-out.

One of the competition's runner-ups suggested that Rita should receive a letter from Len:

Dear Rita, I hope some day you can understand why I had to do this even though I still love you.

Eight months ago I met a woman who'd just been widowed. I felt sorry for her and somehow we started having an affair and now she's pregnant. She's not a young independent dolly bird, and she needs me to look after her. And it is my kid too. So Jean and I are moving down South to start a new life.

The yard is being put on the market and I've had the Kabin legally transferred to you. The solicitors will be in touch about the divorce. At least you've got the house and the Kabin, so I know you'll get by without me. Jean and the baby can't.

God only knows how sorry I am for doing this to you. - Love Len.

I like that ending.

A tongue-in-cheek clever runner-up suggested:

The regulars in the Street discover that Len had been snapped up by a commercial TV company to play a major role in a series about life as it really is in a typical street in the north west.

Everyone in the Street is very jealous because they also find out that the actors in the series, which has been running for some twenty years, earn incredibly vast amounts of money, as befits the stars of a programme which regularly finds itself in the top two positions in the TV ratings.

Len, as would most people finding themselves in his position, has forsaken the Street for the bright lights of showbiz. The Street will never be the same...

For all those concerned that Rita (Barbara Knox) could be on the way out too, the article contained words of great comfort:

Will Len's wife, Rita, become a merry widow once she has recovered from the shock of his dramatic death?

Granada TV chiefs aren't giving much away about her future, though Barbara Knox, who plays her, has been guaranteed a place in The Street's events.

But a Granada spokesman did drop this hint that there could be a new man in Rita's life:

"It's true that a lot of real-life widows find second partners, and Rita COULD find somebody else."

Tantalisingly, the spokesman added:

"Viewers will have to wait and see what happens to Rita, and how she copes after Len's death."

Len, of course, finally met his end in a road accident in December 1983. And Rita was further devastated by the discovery that he'd been having an affair.

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