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Helen Flanagan swapped Corrie for Covent Garden cobbles as she became Miss Santa in the latest campaign against animal cruelty.

The former Coronation Street star and I'm a Celebrity contestant, 23, wore a costume without the traditional white trim to promote the anti-fur message to shoppers in London. 

She teamed up with animal campaign group PETA, holding up a sign which read "Keep it fur-free under the Xmas tree".

Flanagan, who was the highest ranking British star in FHM's sexiest women poll this year, is encouraging people to avoid presents which involve animal cruelty as she dressed in a red dress, white stockings and red platform stilettos in the freezing cold. 

She said: "Fur is cruel and gruesome, and it belongs squarely in Christmas' past.

"With all the wonderful stylish, fur-free designs available today, it's never been easier to celebrate with Christmas gifts that are as kind as they are chic."

PETA says coats, collars and cuffs made from fur involved "immense animal suffering" and claims that some animals are skinned while still alive.

It points out many designers - including Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Vivienne Westwood - now shun fur from their fashion ranges. 

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Bruce jones.jpgIt's been no secret that former Corrie actor Bruce Jones - who played Les Battersby - has had a hard time of it in recent years. He has admitted to drink and drugs problems, lost his home and was declared bankrupt after been sacked by the soap for revealing upcoming plot lines in a pub.

Now though, he has told The Sun that he has found a degree of happiness by working as a garage mechanic in Towyn, North Wales. He says: "I love it. I've learnt how to change tyres, strip exhausts, put them back and how to make a good cup of tea! Customers say, 'Thanks for fixing my tyre, Les!'"

Good for him. It seems The Sun were probably hoping to find a broken man and make him look a bit sad or stupid but he appears to be genuinely happy with his lot.

liz dawn.jpgEx Corrie star Liz Dawn, who played Vera Duckworth on the soap for 34 years, is recovering at home after suffering a heart attack on Monday.

Liz was rushed to hospital after complaining of chest pains but her husband has now said that she is 'doing fine'. She is now recuperating at her apartment in Whitefield.

Liz has been in ill health for a few years and quit the soap in 2007 as her condition worsened.

Some of her former cast mates expressed their best wishes on Twitter. Kevin 'Curly Watts' Kennedy tweeted: 'Just heard about Liz Dawn, thinking of you xxx'. And Sally Lindsay, who played Shelley Unwin, said: 'Stick in there girl, you're as tough as old boots'.

Thumbnail image for JANICE BATTERSBY.jpgTory MP Nigel Evans is being helped through his ordeal by none other than Coronation Street's Janice Battersby

Apparently, Evans who faces allegations of rape and sexual assault of two men, has turned to actress Vicky Entwistle for support during this tough time.

While in the soap Janice Battersby was more often helping herself than helping others, the real life Vicky Entwistle is very different. Apparently Evans and a group of friends spent the two nights after his release at Entwistle's home in nearby Bolton-by-Bowland.

Entwistle is apparently a long-standing friend who helped the Conservative MP to make the decision to come out as gay three years ago. 

Dubbed the "family from hell", the Battersbys were Janice and her husband Les, daughter Leanne and a daughter of her own, Toyah. Entwistle quit Corrie in 2011 after 14 years in the soap.

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I can't wait for this year's Lowestoft Panto. Every year I go up to the Marina Theatre for a couple of hours entertainment and this year's Cinderella promises to be a cracker with former Corrie star Amanda Barrie playing the fairy godmother.

One of the most charming and charismatic stalwarts of stage, screen and television, Barrie has confirmed she will be waving the wand of goodwill as she guides Cinderella on her journey to find Prince Charming.

Known to millions as one of Coronation Street's best loved characters, Alma, she spent 20 eventful years in The Street before her final episode was seen by over 15 million viewers, responsible for more than 400,000 kettles being switched on afterwards and creating a power surge on the National Grid!

She then went on to appear in the ITV hit series Bad Girls as Beverley Tull and is also known to millions worldwide for her iconic role as Cleopatra in the classic film comedy Carry on Cleo, a massive box office hit and today regarded by critics as the best Carry On film of the 30 produced.

Paul Holman, for award winning pantomime producers Paul Holman Associates, said: "Amanda brings perfect chemistry to the production in the role of Fairy Godmother, which she plays with a cocktail of compassion, care and quirkiness. She has a presence on stage where audiences of all ages are engaged and entertained and we all believe in her fairy magic." Should be great.

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andrew lancel.jpgEx Corrie actor Andrew Lancel has appeared in court on Merseyside accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

The charges relate to a period between 1993 and 1994, when the boy was in his early teens and Lancel (who was charged under his real name of Andrew Watkinson) was studying acting.

Lancel - who played evil factory boss Frank Foster from January 2011 until his character was killed off in March last year - pleaded not guilty to six counts of indecent assault of a child under the age of 15 and was granted bail until the trial begins in early June.

Lancel's lawyer said that his client strenuously denies the allegations and was confident his innocence will be established.

tina o brian.jpegJust a few weeks after rumours spread that former Corrie actress Tina O'Brien may be returning to the Street it has emerged that she has, in fact, moved into a career as a drama teacher.

Tina played gymslip mum Sarah Platt until 2007 and since leaving the soap has been seen in Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing. Now, though, she has set up a drama school called 'The Drama Mob' with a former school friend.

She told the Express that the venture was doing very well and added: 'My dream is to unearth the next young Street star and judging by some of the talent these children have shown me it's very possible - that would be brilliant. Maybe I can even get some of my old Corrie stars to come in and share some of their experiences with the children! The youngsters would love that!'

So it looks like there will be no return to the cobbles soon for Sarah-Lou.

shobna gulati.jpgAfter Helen Flanagan's recent allegations that her time on Coronation Street made her depressed, a second cast member has made similar claims. Shobna Gulati, who is leaving the soap after 12 years playing Sunita Alahan, has been talking to The Sun about her bouts of depression and says that 'I now feel free' after filming her final scenes.

Shobna claims that the fame that came with working on the soap is responsible for her problems: "Corrie fame made me a recluse. When I handed in my resignation I knew it was the right thing. I hope now I won't feel like I'm living in a goldfish bowl and the stress in my life will be reduced. There are a lot of things about the Street I loved, but there are many things I won't miss. The pressure got too much. I'm pleased just to be Shobna again."

Shobna also claims that she has struggled financially during her time on Corrie as the actors are only paid for episodes in which they appear and this lead to cash flow problems: "When you're not on screen it can be tight, really tough, worrying. When you don't have a big storyline and don't appear often it's a struggle managing cashflow.

"I've been totally skint and struggled to pay the bills. From the end of July last year to the start of January I had about five episodes. I would use my credit card to simply get by. I'd check every single price in the supermarket. I changed my car for a cheaper version. I didn't have luxuries such as getting my nails done. I panicked and cried out of frustration when bills arrived.

"People think we're on huge salaries, but it can be an average wage. You would feel odd when you were not working. It should be a time to relax, but I would worry about money and feel insecure. From week to week you would get the scripts, not knowing beforehand if you were in an episode or not."

Shobna leaves Coronation Street this week after Sunita perishes in the fire at the Rovers.

Former fellow cast member Helen Flanagan said in November last year that depression and pressure of work played a big part in her decision to quit the soap.

helen flanagan pout 03.jpegSince leaving Coronation Street just over a year ago, Helen 'I used to play Rosie Webster' Flanagan has made sporadic but determined attempts to return to the soap. Her modelling career and post-celebrity jungle antics don't seem to have resulted in anything of substance so she occasionally sends out deliberate messages to Corrie producers, trying to convince them to have her back.

Her latest attempt sees her quoted in several places saying: "You can never say never. Who knows what will happen in the future? I love Coronation Street. I was on the show for 12 years and was fortunate enough not to be killed off on the show, so there's always a chance of going back."

And just in case the writers at Corrie are already sat around trying to think of ways to write Rosie back in, Helen also come sup with the answer: "I would like Rosie to come back with a bang. She's been away in London doing modelling so she probably thinks she's a bit above everyone. But I'd like to see her back with Jason, or it would be great if she came back with a baby. I'd love that."

Bingo! Expect to see Helen back on the show within days and, this time, drawing a writing salary from the show as well.

kevin kennedy.jpgA few newspapers (but mainly the Mirror) are claiming that Kevin 'Curly Watts' Kennedy may be returning to Corrie.

There seems to be four main factors to this story:

1. After a very public battle with alcohol addiction, Kevin Kennedy has been doing very well lately, starring in a West End show etc.

2. The show 'needs to replace' Michael Le Vell, apparently with an 'iconic' character from the same era.

3. Kevin Kennedy has confirmed on his Twitter feed that he has had a meeting with new Corrie executive producer Stuart Blackburn.

OK, sounds feasible, then. It would be really interesting to see Curly back on the cobbles, how they would find an excuse to write the character back in is hard to fathom and the idea that Michael Le Vell needs to be replaced by an old character sounds like nonsense. But, it could still happen.

Don't hold your breath, though. If the Mirror had bothered to read the whole of Kevin's tweet they would have seen that it's all a long way off happening. He wrote: "Thanks for your lovely messages, yes I had lunch with Stuart, Coro's producer but nothing is imminent or even definite."

We think the sight of Curly's distinctive blond spikes in the Rovers is a way off yet.

BILL TARMEY.jpgIt's being reported that a statue of late Corrie legend Bill Tarmey is being planned for the soap's new Salford Quays studios.

Bill, who died last November after playing Jack Duckworth for 31 years, is to be immortalised in copper. It seems that the statue will be paid for by Corrie cast and crew but there are no further details of the plan at this stage.

Bill Ward 01.jpegEx-Corrie actor Bill Ward is to exhibit the photos of Manchester he took while working on the soap. Bill used to play builder Charlie Stubbs, until he passed away following to a Tracy Barlow/ art deco ornament interface, but before his character expired he used to take pictures on his walk to the set.

Bill says: 'I used to live in Castlefield and I would walk to work along the canal paths. My character was an unpleasant piece of work so I liked keeping keeping myself to myself and staying undercover. I saw that there were so many beautiful routes in Manchester to photograph. I'm an actor who takes photographs, rather than the other way round!"

Many of the pictures make up a show called Passing Through which will be at an art fair in Spinningfields, Manchester in September and, you know what, they're quite good. Who'd have thunk it?

You can see a couple of the pictures below.

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helen flanagan cross.jpegThe Mirror are saying that former Corrie actress Helen Flanagan has spoiled her chances of ever returning to the street by apparently blaming the show for not dealing well with her depression.

Helen used to play Weatherfiled flibbertigibbet Rosie Webster until around this time last year, when she left to try her hand at new challenges. These new challenges have included posting photos of herself in her undies on Twitter and appearing on I'm A Celebrity. Capitalising on the attention that her (relatively poor) jungle appearance brought, she has been talking to FHM about how she used to be depressed and blamed Corrie for not dealing with it and instead forcing her to wear skimpy outfits.

It seems this has not gone down well in Corrieworld and The Mirror is quoting a source as saying: "There was a lot of disappointment on the set when Helen came out and said what she did, especially as people looked after her on the show. Her character was very popular and there was a genuine feeling that she could return one day. But that's not going to happen now."

Now, this may be true, it may be not, but it seems to us that if she had any plans whatsoever to maybe one day return to Corrie it might be an idea to stop slagging the programme off in public. Just a thought.

helen flanagan cross.jpegEx-Corrie babe turned jungle babe turned FHM babe turned serial tabloid interviewee Helen Flanagan has been talking to the Daily Mail about her later career in Weatherfield and how she feels she was depressed, exploited and mocked.

Helen played airhead would-be model Rosie Webster and says that the role was a bane: "I felt people were taking the mickey out of me. I felt Rosie had become a cartoon character and I wasn't being taken seriously. At times, when I was asked to wear silly costumes, I felt a bit degraded and demoralised and there were times when I ran off set because I couldn't stand it anymore. I just wanted to be myself. I wanted to get rid of this sexy image. I felt I was being laughed at."

She says that the crew and the producers didn't recognise that she was ill: "I thought people at work didn't like me anymore and considered me a drama queen, a brattish diva, but I was severely depressed. I was crying my eyes out all the time. Eventually, someone at work pulled me aside and said, 'I really don't think you can do this anymore', because I was not well at all. Once, on Corrie, I had to do this really sexy scene with loads of dialogue. I'd hardly been sleeping and couldn't concentrate so I was struggling to remember the words. I was wearing a bra and knickers, feeling very self-conscious, going through really bad depression. I felt knackered and just burst into tears. It was too much pressure."

To be fair, we at Corrie Blog posted several stories at the time saying that Helen looked unwell and that the show seemed intent on showing her in as little clothing as possible in every episode. Helen, however, did little to correct this after leaving the show, posting scantily clad pictures of herself on Twitter and accepting modelling projects which required her to wear very little. Also, it's a bit rich to complain about this now while she is currently on the front of FHM in her underwear.

Sophiya Haque.jpgActress Sophiya Haque has died after a short battle with cancer, it has been announced. Sophiya, 41, appeared in Corrie in 2008, playing barmaid Poppy Morales.

Her agent Oliver Thomson spoke about his client after she passed away peacefully in a London hospital, saying: "Sophiya was a wonderful actress, a wonderful client but so much more than that a wonderful friend. She was adored by everyone she worked with and will be deeply missed."

Sophiya also had a successful stage career and had been appearing in Privates On Parade in the West End when she became ill.

helen flanagan 50s 04.jpegAfter a year which saw her leave Corrie, post lots of pictures of herself in few clothes on Twitter, go in the jungle and be useless and then pose for FHM with very few clothes on, Helen 'my face is up here boys' Flanagan has decided to do the right thing and get herself an education.

Helen has announced that she is going back to school to get her A levels and then onto University. She told FHM: "I want to get a degree. I never did A-levels the first time around so I'm gonna do my A-levels this year. I'm going to do History, Religious Studies and Psychology. When I was 16 I guess I was just going off the rails. I used to be a really good student and then I just went off on one. I was a perfect A student and then I turned 16 and became a bit of a rebel. I think it was just hormones. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't be bothered."

So now we can expect a couple of years of the newspapers carrying stories about Helen's progress through school illustrated with pictures of her wearing very few clothes. All very tasteful.

andrew lancel.jpgAndrew Lancel, who played nasty factory boss Frank Foster in Corrie until earlier this year, will go on trial in April 2013 charged with five counts of indecent assault on a child under 16.

The charges are believed to relate to events that occurred in the early 90's when Lancel was a drama student. He was charged under his real name of Andrew Watkinson and will stand trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

He has stepped down from appearing in the pantomime Sleeping Beauty, which is at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

Margi Clarke.jpegLiverpudlian actress Margi Clarke, who used to play Tyrone Dobbs's mum Jackie in Corrie, has been in the papers over the last few days talking about how the acting work has dried up so she now works in a pub.

In what appears to be an transparent bid to remind Corrie producers that she still exists, Margi posed for pictures behind the bar of the pub where she works and managed to get pleas for a return to Weatherfield (and a bid to appear on I'm A Celebrity, while she was at it) in the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail and - ahem - Liverpool Confidential.

Certainly, with all that's going on with the Tyrone/ Kirsty storyline, now would appear to be an ideal time for Jackie to return to the Street. If not, we'll have 6 pint of lager and a bag of nuts please, Margi.

andrew lancel.jpgFormer Corrie actor Andrew Lancel, who played nasty factory boss Frank Foster until earlier this year has been charged with 5 counts of child sex abuse.

The alleged offences date back 20 years and apparently involve a person under 16 years of age. Lancel says that he 'strenuously denies' all of the allegations and his solicitor Stuart Nolan said: 'Mr Lancel was invited by police to co-operate with an inquiry by one complainant about events that allegedly took place over 20 years ago. He is confident his innocence will be established in the fullness of time.'

Lancel was charged by Merseyside Police under his real name Andrew Watkinson and has been bailed until 19th of December, when he will appear at Sefton Magistrates' Court.

helen flanagan red bikini.jpgShe had only been booted out of the jungle a few hours earlier but Helen 'bikini' Flanagan wasted little time in making public overtures to her old Corrie bosses that she would like to return to the soap.

Speaking on ITV's Lorraine the morning after being evicted from I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Helen, who played Rosie Webster from the age of 9 until earlier this year, said: "I'm very, very fortunate that the door has been left open for me for Coronation Street. That's amazing and I'm really lucky there. I just kind of take things how they come, see how I feel. I don't think you can really plan things. There are lots of things that I would love to do. But I just see how I feel at the time and take things one step at a time really."

Loosely translated, this means "I've got nothing else job-wise on the horizon and I've made a bit of a mess of this jungle thing so I'd better start thinking of skulking back to Corrie cos otherwise it's panto for me."

It's all just as Corrie Blog predicted a couple of months after she left the soap, in fact. We're like Nostradamus, us.

BILL TARMEY.jpgCorrie legend Bill Tarmey was laid to rest today in Manchester. Bill played Jack Duckworth in the soap for over 30 years and stars of the show attended the Lion United Reform Church in Ashton-Under-Lyme along with Bill's friends and family to bid farewell to one of the most popular cast members in the history of the street.

Among the eulogies was one delivered by Nigel Pivaro, who played Jack's errant son Terry. He said: "Today the world is a little poorer for not having him with us and heaven's a little richer. Thank you Bill for living such a wonderful life so fully and sharing it with all of us.
Samia Ghadie, who plays Maria Connor talked movingly of Bill taking her and Alan Halsall (Tyrone Dobbs) under his wing: "To many of us here will share great memories of Bill. He made me laugh so much that on occasions I'd be crying with laughter. He was wise, kind, honest, warm-hearted and had the most generous spirit. In my early days at Corrie he was like a surrogate dad to me and Alan. In those early days he taught Alan and me how to be professional and good to others. Some words of wisdom he shared with us that we still live by are, 'Be good to those you meet on the way up as you'll surely come across them on the way down'."

She continued: "He was genuinely one of the most decent and honourable men you could ever wish to meet. Jack and Vera were a truly unforgettable and formidable partnership, and I doubt we'll ever see that again. They were simply iconic and Jack Duckworth will forever be a true Coronation Street legend. On behalf of everyone who works at Coronation Street and has worked on the programme during its 52 years, and the loyal viewers who have followed the programme throughout these years - Bill, we salute you. And thank you Bill for being the light in our lives for all those years and for bringing so much joy and happiness to millions of people. We love you, we already miss you and we'll never ever forget you.'

Also in attendance were Liz Dawn (who played Jack's wife Vera), William Roache, Alan Halsall, Jack P Shepherd, Shobna Gulati, Kate Ford, Sue Nicholls and Helen Worth. There were also former street stars included Roy Barraclough, Bruce Jones and Kevin Kennedy, who said: "I can't really be sad because every time I think of Bill, a smile's not far behind. It's not how you die, it's how you live and he's left a wonderful legacy. Bill was just a joy and I feel honoured that I knew him and to have called him a friend.

The funeral of the late Bill Tarmey will take next Tuesday at the Albion United Reform Church in Ashton-Under-Lyme, Greater Manchester.

BILL TARMEY.jpgBill died at his home in Tenerife on November the 9th at the age of 71, he was, of course, famous for playing legendary Corrie character Jack Duckworth.

His family have asked that, in lieu of flowers, members of the public who wish to honour Bill's memory do so by making a donation to the Brain Tumour Research charity. Bill's son was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2009 and Bill subsequently became a patron of the charity. Donations can be made on a specially set up Justgiving page.

The Tarmey family released this statement: "Bill's family are very grateful for the messages of condolence, comfort and support they are receiving from Bill's friends, colleagues and members of the public at this very sad time."

BILL TARMEY.jpgFormer Corrie actress Julie Goodyear has been reminiscing about her old friend, the late Bill Tarmey. Julie, who played brassy barmaid Bet Lynch, was a close friend of Bill and played opposite him in some of his first scenes as Jack Duckworth. She told the Radio Times: "I can remember one of the very first scenes I did with Bill on Coronation Street. He was terribly nervous and I did something very unprofessional: I had a quiet word with the floor manager and asked him not to announce that we were going for a take.

"I knew, in my heart, that if Bill could get one take under his belt then his confidence would soar. So Bill, thinking it was a rehearsal, was absolutely wonderful. And afterwards, his nerves kicked in again and he said, 'Oh Jules. We have to do a take now. I hope I'm half as good as that.'

"And I said, 'Billy, that was a take!' And he threw his arms around me. He never forgot that. Afterwards the nerves went away and he made Jack Duckworth a fantastic character."

Julie also spoke of Bill's relationship with his late wife: "His wife Ali was his absolute soulmate, he adored his family and his wife. In fact, it was their golden anniversary this year. So the news of his death is so very sad."

BILL TARMEY.jpgStars of Corrie past and present have been paying their tributes to Bill Tarmey, who passed away on Saturday aged 71.

Liz Dawn, who for almost 30 years played Vera to Bill's Jack Duckworth, said: "I am devastated. He was a lovely man. He will always be remembered by everyone he came into contact with because he was such a kind and generous man. I am totally bereft. Bill was like part of my family. You couldn't wish to meet a more lovely man and a true gentleman. He was a gentle giant and I will miss him so much."

Nigel Pivaro, who played Jack and Vera's bad boy son Terry said: "He became a huge part of both my professional and personal life, and I came to look on him as a second father. Bill's passing has left all who knew his kindness, warmth and special earthy, working-class humour walking a little lonelier. Despite his undoubted popularity, Bill always remained true to his humble self. Though he is now gone, we will smile with him at all the cherished memories he has left us."

Julie Goodyear, who used to play Rovers landlady Bet Lynch, said: "My heart goes go out to Bill's family. It is a terrible shock. It was his golden wedding this year and we have never lost touch. His comedy timing, screen ¬presence and talent were clear to all but he was even more marvellous away from the cameras. Bill was caring, ¬compassionate and everything you could wish for in a person. He was probably one of the most popular men in ¬showbusiness. It was a ¬privilege to have known him."

Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) said: "He'd been told for years to give up smoking and drinking but he always wanted to live life on his terms and enjoy himself. He was a genuinely nice man and a real pal. We had some great times and he will be missed by so many."
And Bill Roache, Corrie longest-standing star, said: "Jack Duckworth was the downtrodden loveable rogue who never got anything right but was loved by everyone. This was down to Bill's incredible skills as an actor. He had amazing comic timing and was a warm and wonderful human being."

Other stars of the show took to Twitter and social networks to pay tribute to Bill, who died at his home on the island of Tenerife. He is survived by his wife, Alma, son Carl and daughter Sara.

We'd like to add our condolences and say that Bill made Jack one of Weatherfield's greatest characters and was hugely loved by all fans of the show. Rest in peace, Bill.

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