LOCAL actor Sally Ann Matthews admitted Coronation Street, which has just celebrated its 60th birthday, helped shape her life.
“What would life have been like without it? Maybe I would not have been an actor, perhaps a teacher or is business,” explained the 50-year-old, who will soon reach 800 episodes playing the character Jenny Bradley.
“Corrie has been a huge part of my life and I am so proud to be associated with it.
“It has never been out of the top 10 programmes for viewing figures and it continues to tell good, powerful stories.”
Corrie’s longevity and success is remarkable bearing in mind it was originally intended to run for 13 pilot episodes in 1960.
Sally, who had been Oldham Theatre Workshop’s youngest member aged nine, is in her third stint in the soap having joined the cast as the daughter of the villainous Alan Bradley in 1985.
“It is incredible that it is 35 years since I started out on Corrie,” she said.
When she landed the part aged 15, Sally Ann never envisaged it would lead to a full-time career in the business, admitting she “accidentally fell into it”.
“I thought it would be a few weeks good fun as it was initially for three months, but five years later and I was still there,” she explained.
Sally Ann, whose father Barry lives in Springhead, made a brief return in 1993 but it was not until 2015 that it became a permanent one.
“It was incredible to go back to a job 22 years later and it had not changed a lot. You cannot do that in many things,” she explained.
“I had not been trained professionally and in the 22 years away I learned about the business and on the job doing lots of work in theatre, radio and television.”
It included one year in rival soap Emmerdale and an appearance in Heartbeat.
Sally Ann added she was sounded out about a return when Coronation Street celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“I was asked to do things to mark that milestone and was asked whether I would be interested in coming back which happened six years ago,” she said.
Having appeared in both Corrie and Emmerdale, Sally described them as very different.
She said: “Corrie is the bigger while Emmerdale is a lot more relaxed while working in the village, which is so beautiful, every day was great.
“I am a huge fan of the show and loved the one year I spent on Emmerdale where I worked with a lot of friends I had previously made working in the theatre.”
Sally Ann landed her first part aged nine in Oldham Theatre Workshop’s production of Tom and Huck alongside mum Jackie and brother Tim who were in the show as was Michael Le Vell who later also became a Corrie icon.
She said: “Mum loved amateur dramatics and was heavily involved in it.
“I never discussed being an actor and thought I would get a proper job and do am-dram as a hobby.”
Sally Ann explained that Oldham Theatre Workshop was a breeding ground for many actors.She continued: “At that stage, nearly every kid on television was from the Workshop.
“They had not been to stage school and that appealed to casting directors who regularly attended the Workshop.
“I had auditions for a couple of things, but was not successful, before I got the job on Corrie.
“It was a thrill because as a child I watched Corrie. You have to remember in those days there were only three television channels.”
Sally Ann also recommended amateur dramatics as a hobby for children.
“It is a great confidence builder and something all kids should do,” she explained. Sally Ann also spoke with great affection of Oldham Coliseum.
She said: “It has been a huge part in my life, both as a kid and as a professional.
“I hope Oldham Council continues to recognise how important it is for the town.
“I have done lots of theatre work, which I miss, and the audiences at the Coliseum are always brilliant.”
Though Sally Ann now lives in Surrey, she said she still has “real affection” for Oldham where she was raised on Queens Road with Alexandra Park her childhood playground.
Sally Ann was a pupil at St Margaret’s, Hollinwood, and later Bluecoat.
Her parents were both headteachers, father Barry at Micklehurst Community Junior School, Mossley, where she became friends with Melanie Sykes who also went on to become a television personality and Jackie for a time at Stansfield Road Infants, Failsworth.
Sally Ann said: “If my school broke up first, dad would take me to school with him.
“I became friends with Melanie who is the same age as me.”Since returning to the soap, a one-off documentary Coronation Street’s DNA Secrets revealed that Corrie actor Amanda Barrie is Sally Ann’s cousin.
• To celebrate her landmark 50th birthday, mother-of-two Sally Ann has embarked on a challenge to compete 50 5K runs during the year.
She took part in the Couch to 5K to get into shape having not run since her days at Bluecoat when she hated cross-country runs around Oldham Edge.
Sally Ann wants to raise £5,000 for five charities, Acting For Others, Action Against Cancer, Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, Royal National Lifeboat Institute and Matt Hampson Foundation.
She completed 15 runs in the three months since her 50th and has already raised almost £3,000.
You can sponsor Sally Ann on her running challenge by visiting https://tinyurl.com/y54xxjy7