Photography by: Katie O’Neill and Nathan Ianos

Words by Harry Potts


William “Bill” Roache, has played Ken Barlow in TV soap opera Coronation Street since its first episode in 1960. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest-serving male television star in a continuous role.

Born in Nottinghamshire in 1932, he joined the British Army at the age of 21 and left three years later at the rank of  lieutenant. Bill then turned to acting, after a series of minor roles, he came to Manchester to join Granada TV’s Coronation Street.

Bill Roche-Nathan-1
Bill Roache, one of the countries best known faces

In 1999, Bill was the recipient of the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his role as Ken Barlow. Although famous for his on-screen relationships (28 in total), Bill has in fact been married twice and has five children including actors Linus and James Roache.

Currently residing at No1 Coronation Street, Ken is still a central character in the soap opera. Now in his mid 80s, Bill shows no sign of slowing down.

Bill on set
Ken and Valerie
Bill’s Coronation St character Ken Barlow in the early 1960s (photo – Granada TV)
Ken and Deirdre Barlow, one of British TV’s most enduring couples (photo – Granada TV)
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Bill, part of the Street’s bricks and mortar

The Manchester College students were invited to photograph Bill on the set of Coronation Street at the ITV studios in Media City. Bill gave up his dinner break during filming to take part in the project. After the shoot, Nathan and Katie were given a behind the scenes tour of Britain’s most famous street.

The Manchester college students at work


Student reflection: Katie O’Neill

“Photographing Bill Roache on the set of Coronation Street, was both nerve-wracking and exciting. The nerves soon left when we met up with Bill and his PA, they guided us around the set helping us to chose significant locations. This opportunity has allowed me to push my limits, work to a tight time schedule and given me added confidence when directing people. Overall I am happy with my images and thrilled to have had this opportunity”.


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Still going strong! Bill, now in his 80s, outside the Rovers Return
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)


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