Colne celebrant praises Coronation Street’s ‘right to die’ storyline

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Popular soap Coronation Street has been praised by a Colne celebrant for tackling a “right to die” storyline and showcasing a humanist funeral.

Sally Penn (49), of St Andrews Close, is pleased to see the hit ITV show highlighting humanism in its touching account of much-loved character Hayley Cropper.

Coronation Street's Roy Cropper, played by David Neilson, with Hayley Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh

Coronation Street's Roy Cropper, played by David Neilson, with Hayley Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh

Hayley, who is played by Accrington actress and distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association Julie Hesmondhalgh, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in July.

And over the past five months, audiences have been left on the edge of their seats as Hayley, the first transgender character in British soap, has battled with her illness and raised the controversial issue of voluntary euthanasia with her disapproving husband Roy Cropper. She is set to leave the cobbles in a moving episode soon.

Now Mrs Penn, who organises and conducts humanist funerals all over East Lancashire, has spoken out about the plot - applauding Corrie for raising awareness of what being a humanist entails.

The self-employed Humanist celebrant, who also conducts non-religious services and helps to run a “Death Cafe” in Colne, said: “This is a storyline that a lot of people are going to see, and a question might be raised about what a humanist funeral is. It is simply about celebrating a life, and commemorating that person. Being a humanist is believing you can lead a good life without the need for religion.

“It is great Coronation Street are making people aware that they have a choice when it comes to funerals.

“So many people who come to services come to me afterwards and say ‘I didn’t realise that this is an option’. And a lot of people with a strong religion will say ‘It’s not what we believe but it was a really lovely service’.

“It is not anti-religious, and what I hope is that everybody gains something from it and takes away a feeling of being a part of something special.”

Also talking about Hayley’s storyline is Andrew Copson, chief executive of BHA, who said he is pleased to see Coronation Street dealing with one of the “most important bio-ethical issues of our time”,

He said: “When a mentally competent adult is suffering incurably, is permanently incapacitated, and has made a clear and informed decision to end their life but is unable to do so independently, simple compassion calls out to us to give assistance. That’s what the overwhelming majority of the British public believe, and we think the law should reflect that and it is a great opportunity to have a public discussion through this storyline.”

Anybody wanting to find out more about humanism can contact Mrs Penn by emailing Alternatively, visit