Tony Warren MBE - A Tribute

Published: 02 March 2016 Tags: Tony Warren, Coronation Street, Writer By John Walding

It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of LGBT Foundation Patron and creator of Coronation Street,Tony Warren MBE.

Paul Martin OBE Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation commented: "It is really sad news that Tony Warren MBE a good friend and Patron of LGBT Foundation has died. His work entertained millions & he was a remarkable man. Tony gave a voice to some legendary characters & he helped shape the modern gay identity."

"Everyone at LGBT Foundation, across Wetherfield and the rest of Greater Manchester and the North of England owes him so much. We know that there are literally millions of LGBT people around the world whose lives have been supported and enriched by the characters he helped to create and the opportunities he gave for strong female characters and for LGBT people to emerge from the cobbles. He will be greatly missed."

Fellow LGBT Foundation Patron and fellow Corrie legend Antony Cotton commented: ‘Without Tony, there would've been no Our Friends In The North, GBH, Queer As Folk or Happy Valley. He carved out the landscape for them all….Tony leaves the greatest legacy. I'll miss him so much…

Back in 2006 Tony officially opened the then Lesbian & Gay Foundation offices with Sir Ian McKellen and it was wonderful to see these two old friends reunited in support for the future well-being of Greater Manchester’s LGBT community.

Andrew Gilliver LGBT Foundation’s Community Involvement Manager added “Tony would always get back to you with any request, even if he couldn’t help out. He was a true gentleman and thought nothing of taking you for a chat and an orange juice to somewhere like Paddy’s Goose in the gay village. He was always a supportive and extremely approachable. He knew the importance of the work he had done and he knew that generation after generation still needed those role models, those LGBT characters to look to and to reflect upon when challenging the daily struggles in our own lives.”

Back in 2011 on Corrie’s 50th Anniversary Tony spoke to Outnorthwest magazine about the soap’s queer legacy.

“I hoped that the world was going to change, and from the moment I became well known I refused point blank to pretend to be anything other than gay, which of course was quite dangerous in those days, we never went past Strangeways Prison without shuddering, because we could be in there the next week for all we knew. Pat Phoenix used to say to me, do you always have to say “My name is Tony Warren and I’m gay?” And I said: “Yes I do”, because until people accept that we are contributors to this life then I am going to go on saying it, and I think I’ve just about stopped.”

Have you been impressed with the show’s storylines? "I think the lesbian storyline has been beautifully toned. What is more, I think the public have accepted it as just a sweet, nice, romantic story and have got wrapped up in it and have not stopped to think that it is a same-sex relationship; it’s just young love as far as they are concerned, and this is healthy. I get a bit annoyed at some of the criticism aimed at Antony Cotton because the fact of the matter is; there are loads of Sean’s out and about. You go to the right end of Canal Street and I can point you to exactly the bar that they are in, he represents that. It’s not Antony - it’s Sean. Antony has been a proper activist for years. When he originally came in, there was the straight looking, straight acting Todd Grimshaw who was gay, and Antony was to restore the balance to show that everybody wasn’t straight acting and looking. But then Todd went, and everybody is saying we are only representing a certain type, now we are not, and as we see other gay characters are beginning to emerge.”

What was it like for you growing up as a young gay man in Salford? "There was a big scene in Manchester - one scene around the Midland - the Cafe Royale, a bar we colonised at the Midland, the Princess bar at the top end of Oxford St next to the Odeon - those were the smart ones. The tacky end was the Union - but of course the tacky end was the most fun. I was very out at Granada, there was that line in The Road to Coronation Street, when she says, "Well I don't think he bats for the same team as you". And I say, “No he's not muscular enough!"