Saturday, 9 March 2013

Adoring Alma

(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in February 2013.)

Feeling a bit fed up today, I must admit. Still in plaster, still in the wilds of Scotland and reaching for the gin. And also for my Coronation Street DVD collections. 'What a wise move', I hear you cry for soon I was back on form, all snug, cosy and familiar. 

For me, 1989 was a classic year for the Street. The McDonalds first arrived in Weatherfield, giving us Liz's big hair, teenage idols to rival any Australian imports and an endless supply of Northern Irish catchphrases from Big Jim. Catch yourself on! 

It also gave us the culmination of the wonderful, iconic Alan Bradley storyline which would see Rita finally free of the madman, courtesy of a Blackpool tram. However, 1989 also brought back a character who had made her last full appearance seven years before. I refer of course, to the lovely Alma Sedgewick.

Amanda Barrie was always my favourite as Alma, proprietor of Jim's Cafe. I remember watching Alma when I was younger and being captivated by her performances. Originally a somewhat brassy character, envisaged I am sure as the new Elsie Tanner, she quickly softened, becoming a loyal friend to many and at times a somewhat put upon character. For me she was always someone viewers could both root for and sympathise with, particularly in her dealings with that famous Weatherfield lothario, Mike Baldwin. 

Looking back, it was amazing she managed to maintain that glamorous appearance throughout her 13 years as a regular on the cobbles. For most of her tenure she either worked behind the counter of a greasy spoon or donned a tabard at Freshcos alongside Curly Watts. Our Alma did have a rather striking appearance: that mane of glossy dark hair, the lovely big eyes, the rolled up sleeves and the turned up collars. It worked for her and I admired her sense of style. 

I loved her friendships with Gail and Phyllis behind the counter of Jim's Cafe. She even made Gail smile on the odd occasion. However her greatest double act in my eyes was with fellow gadabout, Audrey Roberts. I loved their countless shopping sprees and adventures out in Alma's bright red MG sports car. They were true friends to the end. I think Corrie bosses missed a trick, as there was a lot of missed potential when Alma eventually moved in with Audrey after her divorce. 

Which brings us nicely to men. 

Most of Alma's main storylines involved her love life. For a time she came between Ken and Mike (not an enviable position in my eyes!) before eventually settling down with Mike Baldwin. She was a great foil for wheeler dealer Mike, and much more able for him than he ever realised. Her association with Mike also led to Don Brennan, the one-legged taxi driver, kidnapping her and taking her for a dip in the canal. It was a great shame when the writers split them up, and for me things were never really the same again. Post-Mike she wasn't given much to do which was a shame as she could have developed into a very strong independent lady of a certain age. 

However she did seem to fade away. Alma's eventual exit from Corrie in 2001 was a sad one, and also controversial. Alma succumbed to cervical cancer and her demise was swift to say the least. Despite some criticism from viewers and indeed Amanda Barrie herself, the story was played out superbly by both Amanda and Sue Nicholls. When the end came there wasn't a dry eye in the house. 

After leaving Coronation Street, Amanda Barrie wrote a wonderful memoir called It's Not a Rehearsal. I would recommend you track it down if you haven't already had the pleasure. It was a very open, honest account of her life and incredibly varied career. She also wrote fondly of her time on the Street and her many friends in the cast. As you can tell I'm still a massive Alma fan, even twelve years after her departure. God bless DVDs!

So do you share my love of Alma Sedgewick? What are your memories of this character? Any Alma storylines that you particularly remember? I want to hear about it!

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