Anthony McVay “Tony” Simpson, MBE (8 July 1936 – 1 March 2016),better known by his stage name Tony Warren, was an English television screenwriter, best known for creating the ITV soap opera Coronation Street. He was also an actor, as well as creating other television dramas, and wrote critically acclaimed novels.
Warren was born at 3 Wilton Avenue, Pendlebury, Lancashire, adopting Warren as a stage name in his early acting career. As a child, he trained at the Elliott-Clarke theatre school in Liverpool. He became a regular on BBC Radio Children’s Hour and also acted in many radio plays, performing with many of the people who were later to become household names through Coronation Street, most notably Violet Carson and Doris Speed, who played Ena Sharples and Annie Walker respectively.
Warren acted on stage and in several early ITV Plays of the Week.
According to BBC producer Olive Shapley (1910–1999), who had worked with Warren on Children’s Hour, the idea for Florizel Street (later changed to Coronation Street) came to him late one night in 1959 while they were returning to Manchester by train. Shapley recalled:
“ At about Crewe, after a long period of silence, Tony suddenly woke me up saying, “Olive, I’ve got this wonderful idea for a television series. I can see a little back street in Salford, with a pub at one end and a shop at the other, and all the lives of the people there, just ordinary things and …” I looked at him blearily and said “Oh. Tony, how boring! Go back to sleep.” … Tony has never let me forget my error of judgement.”
In 1960, Harry Elton at Granada commissioned a script from Warren for a show about “a street out there”, and Warren wrote all 13 episodes of the serial that ITV initially decided to air. When the show became a success he continued to write scripts for the series until 1968, after which he moved on to other fields. However, he continued to, sporadically, write scripts until the late-1970s. The fame from creating the series earned him sufficient clout to enable him to become involved in projects on his terms.
Warren has won a number of awards all in relation to devising Coronation Street. He received the Special Achievement Award in Soap at the British Soap Awards 2000 and the National Television landmark award followed in 2005. His most recent accolade was at the Royal Television Society awards in which he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award. The society also labelled the show as “the most successful television programme in British history”. In 1994, Warren was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Warren made a cameo in the 50th anniversary live episode of Coronation Street in December 2010. He was played by David Dawson in the BBC drama The Road to Coronation Street in September that year.
In the 1990s he came back to public attention with a series of critically acclaimed novels, The Lights of Manchester (1991), Foot of the Rainbow (1993), Behind Closed Doors (1995) and Full Steam Ahead (1998).
He was the subject of This Is Your Life on 11 October 1995.
In 2008 he was given an honorary degree from Manchester Metropolitan University “in recognition for his contribution to ground-breaking television and creative writing which has helped put Manchester and Salford on the cultural map”.
He was retained by ITV Studios as consultant to Coronation Street where he kept a close eye on all aspects of the show.
Warren was openly gay from his early years on Coronation Street, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He said that he experienced much homophobic treatment from some of the other writers.Warren also battled with drug and alcohol addiction before attending rehabilitation
Warren died on 1 March 2016 after a short illness. His death was announced on Coronation Street’s Twitter account