Stars pay tribute to Anne Kirkbride

Smiles and laughter were the theme at Manchester Cathedral in a celebration of the life of the popular Oldham-born actress, who was hailed for creating one of television's ``truly great characters''.

The memorial service, attended by up to 600 people including members of the public, heard that all Kirkbride ``ever wanted to do was make people happy''.

Her close friend, Beverley Callard, who plays Liz McDonald, and her on-screen granddaughter Elle Mulvaney (Amy Barlow) gave affectionate tributes, as did her brother, John, the ITV1 show's executive producer Kieran Roberts and crew members.

Long-term on-screen husband William Roache (Ken Barlow) gave a reading of the David Harkins poem She Is Gone.

Kirkbride, 60, was one of the show's best-known performers and was loved by millions for her portrayal of husky-voiced Deirdre, famed for many years for her oversized spectacles.

She died in January after a battle with cancer.

Callard told the service it was ``fantastic'' that there was ``so much love in one room for one person''.

She said: ``She would absolutely hate this event and she would have said 'they will understand why I can't go' but she would also be really, really proud.''

She recalled Kirkbride's renowned passion for guessing people's star signs when they first met at Granada Studios 28 years ago and she announced: ``You are an Aries, we will get on.''

Kirkbride was like ``a stick of dynamite'' in that everyone would know when she arrived in the building, she said.

Callard said her friend had found the on-screen ``man of her dreams'' with Roache and also off-screen when she met her future husband, David Beckett, when he joined the show in 1990 to play her handyman boyfriend.

She said: ``Dave made Annie's life complete. Not only was he her husband but also her dearest friend.

``That meant everything. It made her an even better actress because she always knew at the end of the day she could go home and be herself, and be loved, and be enveloped in her gorgeous family.

``We are so thankful she has been in our lives.''

She quipped: ``That smoking shelter at work will never be the same again.''

Mulvaney, 12, said: ``Today as I stand here, I'm not just remembering my on-screen grandma. I'm also remembering my friend.

``Annie was caring, lovable and funny.''

She continued: ``Annie was always making everyone laugh on set, the hours soon passed by very quickly.

``Annie always had everyone laughing and groaning at times when she was singing on set at the top of her voice.''

She concluded: ``Annie is now one of God's many angels and will be missed. But I know for me she isn't truly gone and she will always be in my heart.''