The cold wind of change was blowing through Coronation Street when new producer Susi Hush arrived on the cobblestones in May 1974.
Pat Phoenix, who played femme fatale Elsie Tanner, had suddenly quit and Violet Carson, who portrayed the Street’s moral guardian Ena Sharples, had suffered a stroke.
The fiery encounters between the two had been a staple of the show’s scripts since episode one in December 1960 – and would leave a yawning chasm for Hush to fill.
In fact some commentators felt previous producer Eric Prytherch, whose tenure lasted for two years, had left Hush a poison chalice.
The show’s sparkle seemed to have dimmed. Fallowfield actress Phoenix put it more bluntly when she left, saying she was ‘bored to tears’ with her role.
Hush aimed to bring more social realism and drama to the soap, but she introduced more humour too in the shape of new characters who would become firm audience favourites.
These included Gail Potter, played by Helen Worth, who’s still on the soap now, and the inimitable Vera Duckworth, sometime machinist and pub landlady, portrayed by Liz Dawn.
Hush’s spell in the producer’s chair was brief – May 1974 to February 1976 – but very eventful. A former Granada TV researcher, she’d previously worked as a script editor on the Adam Smith series.
One of the first departures under Hush was that of Irene Sutcliffe who had played corner-shop owner Maggie Clegg since 1968.
Next out of the door was Wigan actress Jennifer Moss – well known as barmaid Lucille Hewitt since 1960. Hush had little choice due to Moss’s heavy drinking which had caused trouble on set.
Rovers Return landlady Annie Walker (Doris Speed) explained that her ward Lucille had left for Ireland to be with her stepmother Concepta Regan.
To fill the gaps in the cast list, Hush placed more emphasis on female characters Deirdre Hunt and Rita Littlewood, played by Oldham actresses Anne Kirkbride and Barbara Knox.
Along with Rochdale-born Julie Goodyear as barmaid Bet Lynch, the pair recaptured some of the intensity of Elsie Tanner in her prime with some gritty storylines and escapades.
Deirdre notched up the Street’s sixth on-screen wedding when she married builder Ray Langton (Neville Buswell) in 1975.
The Street was shocked by the death of actor Graham Haberfield, who played builder Jerry Booth, at the age of 33. He suffered a heart attack due to liver condition in 1974.
The Mark Brittain warehouse burnt down in October 1975 in what was the most ambitious special effects set-piece staged by the soap in its 15-year history.
One Hush initiative that failed to take off with viewers was the introduction of the Hopkins family as the new occupants of the corner shop.
They arrived with a fanfare in 1974 but were written out a year later. Vera Hopkins was notably played by Last of the Summer Wine actress Kathy Staff, born in Dukinfield, while her husband Idris was portrayed by Richard Davies.
The departure of the Hopkins family enabled Hush to move Gail into the corner shop flat with Tricia Hopkins, played by Manchester actress Kathy Jones.
The pair were involved in a series of comic storylines with Gordon Clegg (Bill Kenwright) as their landlord. Another newcomer, Blanche Hunt played by Maggie Jones, took over the corner shop.
In 1976, Blanche quit Weatherfield to manage a country club in Kenilworth. Gail and Trisha were left to mind the corner shop.
Blanche would become a regular cast member again 1998. In her later incarnation, her repartee with newsagent Norris Cole, deftly portrayed by Malcolm Hebden, would supply some the Street’s vintage comic moments.
In February 1976, Hush was replaced by Granada comedy producer Bill Podmore, who remained in the post until 1989. After all the changes under Hush, his aim was to put the soap back on an even keel.
He quickly established Hilda and Stan Ogden (Jean Alexander and Bernard Youens) as a brilliant double act with Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) as their big-hearted, but wayward, surrogate son.
Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle) took the reins at the corner shop, partnered by future Weatherfield mayor Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley). Vera’s character was also developed more strongly.
After her stint on the Street, Hush worked on Granada legal drama Crown Court and then formed her own production company.
She produced two seasons of the BBC children’s series Grange Hill in the 1980s and Channel 4’s first drama series Winter Sunlight.
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