Coronation Street's lovable loudmouth Vera Duckworth is preparing to say her final "ta ra chuck" to the residents of Weatherfield. After 34 years at the heart of the popular ITV soap, Liz Dawn - the actress who portrays the former pub landlady - is retiring for health reasons.
"It's been an amazing 34 years," said the 68-year-old star, who is due to make her exit from the £200,000-a-year role before Christmas. "I'd like to thank everyone for what has been the best time of my life."
Producers are now devising storylines for her character's departure, but will leave the door open for the guest appearances Liz has already agreed to. Vera's layabout husband Jack Duckworth - played by Bill Tarmey - will remain in the series, meanwhile. "It's like we've been married for real," says Bill of his on-screen wife. "I've enjoyed every minute."
Mum-of-four Liz - who first appeared on the programme in 1974 as a headscarf-wearing worker at Mike Baldwin's clothes factory - was diagnosed with the lung condition emphysema in March 2004. After initially keeping her illness secret, the actress vowed to continue with the role when she went public about her condition, despite sometimes needing oxygen on set.
"We're indebted to her for all she has achieved during her years as Vera Duckworth," says Coronation Streeet executive producer Kieran Roberts. "We will always miss this wonderful lady and first rate actress and we are delighted she's agreed to return to the soap in the future."