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Roache arrest puts new spin on Ken Barlow preschool storyline

Ken Barlow, portrayed here by William Roache, butters some bread for visiting school children.

Ken Barlow, portrayed here by William Roache, butters some bread for visiting school children.

Plans for an upcoming storyline on decades-old British soap opera Coronation Street have been called into question after the actor who plays the storyline’s central character was arrested on historic sex abuse charges.

81 year old William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow on the popular soap, was taken into custody yesterday on suspicion of sexually abusing a 15 year old girl in 1967.

These developments have put an unexpected spin on an upcoming subplot which features Ken Barlow and his wife Deirdre opening a preschool in their fictional hometown of Weatherfield. In a series of episodes set to be broadcast in the UK starting next week, Barlow decides to bring some joy back to the town by opening a learning facility that he hopes will provide some welcome relief to Weatherfield’s children, whose home lives are typically beset by intense domestic disputes, cold-blooded murders and the occasional explosion.

Stuart Blackman, a producer for Coronation Street, said the subplot was supposed to be a “fun aside” from the show’s more gut-wrenching storylines, and would feature heartwarming scenes of Barlow making friends with cute children and “rough and tumbling” with them in his pyjamas.

The storyline, which was reportedly Roache’s idea, has already been filmed nearly in its entirety, but the show’s producers are now wondering whether to broadcast it, fearing that the developments of the last 24 hours may have made an otherwise routine subplot seem “a little bit off.”

“Obviously it’s a really tough decision for us,” said Blackman. “We don’t really think there’s anything wrong with the plot, per se. When Bill suggested it, we certainly didn’t find it objectionable.”

He said that the decision was being made even more difficult by the fact that many of the show’s producers and cast members were still in disbelief about Roache’s arrest.

Anne Kirkbride, who has portrayed Roache’s on-screen wife Deirdre for decades, said that she was still reeling from the incident, and that it had shed some new light on a series of drawings he’d made for her last year.

“He made these, sort of, uhm, pencil drawings for me,” she said, “and they were pictures of him fondling these short womens’ breasts. They were some lovely drawings, and I brought them home and I put them on the wall. Now I look at them and I think, ‘Oh.’”

Kirkbride expected the producers would go ahead with the preschool episodes, but said they would probably have to edit out the scene where Barlow accidentally comes to school naked.