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Sarah Lancashire’s heartfelt speech at Royal Television Society Programme Awards goes viral

A video of Sarah Lancashire recalling how an elderly lady told her that the star’s television shows kept her company when she was alone at Christmas has gone viral.

The Happy Valley star was accepting the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards when she told an anecdote of how an elderly woman approached her at Christmas time.

Lancashire said, a few years back, she was waiting in a long line in a supermarket on Christmas Eve when a lady smiled at her and started a conversation.

Lancashire said the woman said: “I bet you think what you do doesn’t matter.”

To which she joked to the audience: “I thought this could go anywhere…”

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Then Lancashire continued: “She said: ‘Tomorrow is Christmas day and I will be on my own. And I will have the television on all day and that will be my company, so thank you.’”

She wrapped up the poignant speech by saying “I think we all need to carry on doing what we are doing. As it really is company for so many people.”

A clip of the video, posted on Twitter by television writer Scott Bryan, has now been viewed more than 650,000 times.

Lancashire in Happy Valley (BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)
Lancashire in Happy Valley (BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire)

He tweeted alongside the video: “Still thinking about this speech Sarah Lancashire gave at the #RTSAwards.”

“It perfectly encapsulates the power of television and why so many people make programmes.”

Another fan wrote: “Sarah’s perfectly articulated what I’ve always felt.”

At the awards, which took place on Tuesday, Lancashire was honoured for her long career in television work - and in particular for her role in BBC drama Happy Valley which drew to a close earlier this year.

At the time, viewing figures reported by Broadcast suggested 7.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the finale of the three-series drama starring Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood and Norton as villain Tommy Lee Royce. Around five million tuned in to watch the first episode live as it was broadcast.

The ratings, supplied by Barb data from overnights.tv, make Happy Valley the highest rated show of 2023 so far. It meant almost 42 per cent of people who were watching television at that time were watching the BBC drama.

Line of Duty — the long-running series about police corruption — is the current record holder, as it pulled in12.8 million viewers for the final episode of its sixth series in 2021, making it the most-watched episode of any drama since records began in 2002.

As the Happy Valley finale was aired, seven years after the second series ended, some of its stars reminisced about working on the drama.

Norton spoke to GQ magazine, hailing Lancashire and Wainwright as “absolute heroes”.

The actor said: “You’ve got Sally Wainwright at her absolute best. Sarah Lancashire, standing opposite me, giving her absolute best. These absolute heroes, these Queens of our industry, are the best there are.

“So it was an absolute privilege. I know actors throw those big words around a lot, but it was genuinely one of the most special moments of my career.”