Corrie’s David cleans up in the world of soaps

IT was a 1970s children’s favourite which first drew David Kester in to the world of television.

To mark his 10th birthday, he was taken to see Crackerjack! at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

“I was mesmerised by the lights and the cameras and I knew that was what I wanted to do,” David told me.

Many moons later and the director has fulfilled his dream, working on numerous programmes, including This Morning, You’ve Been Framed, Stars in Their Eyes, EastEnders and Emmerdale.

But the show for which he is probably best-known is Coronation Street, on which he has worked for nearly 20 years.

Among the episodes he has directed are the funeral of Hayley Cropper; the weddings of Carla Connor and Peter Barlow, and Cilla Brown and Les Battersby — which featured a guest appearance from Status Quo — the armed siege at the Underworld factory; and, last year, the hour-long episode where businessman Aidan Connor (Shane Ward) committed suicide.

At the same time, David Platt (Jack P Shepherd) was dealing with being raped and was considering suicide, too.

David, who received a Royal Television Society nomination for that episode, said: “I am proud to be a small cog in a machine which is a wonderful show.

“There has always been a nice atmosphere on set and it is good fun. A lot of that is down to Bill Roache, who is the longest-serving member of the cast and crew.

“He sets the tone, so there aren’t too many divas.”

The 51-year-old also revealed that the programme was originally influenced by Jewish humour.

David explained: “Corrie’s creator, Tony Warren, said it was based on the Jewish humour among the people he knew growing up in Salford.”

But the cobbles has seen only a handful of Jewish characters over the years, the latest being Nicola Rubinstein (Nicola Thorp), the daughter of murderer Pat Phelan.

There have been Jewish actors, however, such as Maureen Lipman and Kate Anthony, but they haven’t played Jewish characters.

So, why have so few Jewish characters set up home in the fictional town of Weatherfield?

David added: “It has to be justified dramatically and you can’t just do things to please a small minority, especially on shows like Corrie.

“It is a working class show and so you won’t have many Jews living in the backstreets of Salford.

“I wouldn’t say there is a great social need for it, but soaps have massively responded to accurately reflect ethnicity.

“Certainly Corrie and EastEnders have multi-ethnic casts and there is good coverage of gay and lesbian people.

“You have to show diversity, otherwise there are people who watch them who will not relate.

“Non-Jewish friends of mine are always shocked when I tell them the number of Jews who live in the UK — they cannot believe it is such a small number.”

David lived permanently in Manchester for more than a decade and became an adopted son of the city, as he had a season ticket for three years at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, including the season the Reds won the treble.

“It is complicated because I am technically a Tottenham Hotspur fan and my kids are also Spurs fans, but a part of me is Manchester United, also,” he said.

David was raised in north London by mum Rosalind (now Nelson) and dad Sacha. He has a sister, Susanna Rosenberg, and his maternal grandparents, Freda and Harold Walters, were founder members of Mill Hill Shul.

Raised in a traditional Jewish home, he was barmitzvah, but his father’s view on religion was coloured by what happened to him during the Second World War.

Sacha Kester was born in Paris, but was hidden during the Holocaust. His parents were killed in the Shoah.

David explained: “Dad had a difficult start to life and he lived in orphanages.

“It coloured his view of being religious because his experience of it, at a young age, didn’t represent anything which was good.”

The 51-year-old attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys School where he estimates, at the time, 30 per cent of pupils were Jewish.

“It was an academic hot house, which didn’t really suit me,” David recalled. “I was more creative, but I still had a great time there.

“Most of my contemporaries went into the professions, such as law, medicine or the City.”

Knowing he wanted to go into television, he gained as much experience as he could, working as a runner and then for a facilities company which transferred pop promos on to videotape.

David read media studies at Central London Polytechnic, which is now Westminster University, and then sent hundreds of application letters to production companies — but received no replies.

His lucky break came when he saw an advert for a researcher at Granada Television. David landed the position and worked on a children’s programme called Cool Cube.

“I had never even been to Manchester before,” David said. “Working on Cool Cube and filming inserts was the first time I had worked with proper crews.”

He went on to work for This Morning, when it was presented by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan from Liverpool’s Albert Dock, and, after taking a directors’ course at Granada, worked on the last series of the show.

David stated: “We would have proper Hollywood A-listers who would travel up to Liverpool. One minute Dudley Moore would walk past and then Shirley Bassey.

“Unlike today, where it is broadcast from one show, we would film in various places across the Albert Dock.

“Back then, there would be a 10-second countdown and there would be a blank monitor we were looking at in the gallery and, with three seconds to go, Judy would throw herself in front of the camera while trying to gather back her breath. It was good fun, though.”

David also directed late night show Juice, hosted by Joan Collins’ daughter Tara Newley.

But he wanted to move into directing drama and, after being offered a chance to work at BBC Manchester’s headquarters in Oxford Road, used that offer as leverage at Granada.

He recalled: “I told them I wanted to do Corrie and to give me a chance but, if I messed up, then not to use me again. I knew I could do a good job.

“From a directorial point of view, you have much more involvement with the scripts and with the actors.”

David already knew some of the cast and crew from working at Granada, and had previously worked with Bill Roache on a religious programme, which saw Corrie’s Ken Barlow visit Jerusalem. It was also the first time David had been to Israel.

Nearly 20 years have passed since David’s directorial debut on Corrie. And he has seen just how much TV — on a technical and commercial level — has changed.

David said “Everybody looks back to this golden age of TV and, when you do, they look pretty rubbish, visually.

“TV is better than it has ever been, so much so that it is eclipsing Hollywood movies, which is why you tend to get only around 12 franchised blockbusters made in Hollywood now.

“Much of the talent for drama has gone into TV and the standard of production is so high.

“When I started on Corrie, we were doing three episodes a week and the picture was four by three in standard definition, so when you look back now, it looks pretty ropey.

“Today, you’re turning on your TV and watching stuff in 4K HD and with Dolby Atmos.

“There is also much more content on offer and so many different ways to view it — nowadays, you don’t have all the family sitting round to watch TV, except maybe to watch the finals of X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing.

“It is a much more competitive environment, so there is a huge amount of pressure on soaps to be really good.

“Amazon Prime and Netflix, for example, have raised the production values. Some of the stuff, especially on Netflix, is beautifully shot and they have the resources of a Hollywood feature film.

“We have to be as good as those in our own way to make people carry on watching us.”

Corrie is not the only soap David works on, however, and he has just finished a stint directing episodes of EastEnders.

He directs Emmerdale, too, but said Corrie is the one he has the most connection with.

London-based David lives with friends in Manchester when he is working on Corrie.

But directing isn’t the only string on his bow, as he has also composed music for channel launches and re-scored programmes for international distribution.

But, as father — with partner Abigail Rappoport — to two young children in seven-year-old Noah and Carmel, four, as well as the amount of filming and travelling he does, he doesn’t do as much composing as he would like to.

David also maintains a presence on Twitter, where he regularly retweets concerns over antisemitism, especially in the Labour Party.

He said: “The surge in antisemitism should be worrying to everybody, and not just Jewish people.

“Jewish people need to stick together and fight with a united front, which people have been doing successfully on Twitter.

“I don’t tweet that much, as most of my followers are actors and soap fans, and I don’t think they are that interested in my tweeting political stuff.

“However, I am a huge admirer of people like Tracy Ann Oberman, Eddie Marsan and Rachel Riley, who stand up to these idiots.

“They are brave for doing it, because they get a lot of s*** thrown back at them.

“Calling it antisemitism almost dilutes it is, as it is racism, pure and simple, and just as damaging as any other form of racism — hence the need for soaps as a form of escapism!”

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