The BBC have confirmed today that Barbara Windsor is to leave flagship soap EastEnders next year.
The actress joined the cast of EastEnders in 1994 to play Peggy Mitchell, the mother of established characters Phil, Grant and Sam. The character was previously played by Jo Warne on a limited basis in 1991.
As well as heading up one of soap land’s most dysfunctional families, producers were quick to install Peggy in the Queen Vic following Windsor making an impact in the role. She’s since become a stalwart of the soap, but took a break from filming in 2003 for health reasons, returning to the set at Elstree in 2005.
Babs of course is also well known for her portrayals of a good time girl in a string of Carry On movies.
“EastEnders has been wonderful to me and it’s no secret that it changed my life all of those years ago. I’ll be so sad to leave Peggy behind; she’s such a wonderful character to play,” Barbara noted of saying goodbye to Peggy.
“I have had the pleasure of working with a marvellous cast and crew and have made many lasting good friends. To have had the honour of showing the Queen around the set is something that will stay with me forever.
“I would like to thank the BBC for the incredible opportunity they gave me and above all, I must thank the wonderful viewers for their support over the years. I’m looking forward to the future and I suppose when all’s said and done, I should spend a bit more time with my old man, as he’s not getting any younger.” – Barbara Windsor
John Yorke, Controller BBC Drama Production & New Talent, added: “To most of the British public Barbara is EastEnders, and it’s almost impossible to imagine Albert Square without her.”
Windsor was awarded an MBE in 1999 and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Soap Awards in May this year. She also won a best actress gong at the soap awards in 1999 for scenes which saw Peggy undergo a mastectomy to treat a second occurrence of breast cancer.
Peggy’s storylines have also included disastrous marriages to Frank Butcher and Archie Mitchell and feeling the wrath of Pauline Fowler after cruelly outing her son Mark as HIV positive.
“Barbara has contributed so much to EastEnders over the last 15 years, plus countless episodes, and countless amazing storylines. Peggy Mitchell is a truly iconic character, and along with Steve McFadden and Ross Kemp, Barbara has made the Mitchells the premier family of British soap.
“I so much enjoy working with her – catching up with the gossip, listening to her stories, talking about the show, benefiting from her advice, and most importantly revelling in her powerful, funny, passionate performances. All of us at EastEnders – and our audience – are going to miss her hugely.” – Diederick Santer, EastEnders Executive Producer