Ena gets stamp of pop culture

THE Coronation Street character of Ena Sharples is destined to become one of the icons of the millennium after being chosen for a postage stamp to mark the year 2000.

Sharples, renowned for her trademark hairnet and sharp tongue, beat off a challenge from the Daleks before being proposed for her coveted place on a millennium stamp.

She has been depicted by Justin Mortimer, the artist whose controversial portrait of the Queen last year had the monarch's floating face disconnected from her shoulders.

"I don't watch Coronation Street every night, but my brief was cult television and it had to be English," said Mortimer, 28, yesterday. "To be on a stamp, you have to be dead or royalty, so it had to be someone who was dead."

His head-and-shoulders portrait of Sharples is set to be among a series of stamps to be released this year to mark the millennium. She will take her place alongside other subjects from popular culture including the late pop star Freddie Mercury performing at Live Aid, Bobby Moore, captain of England's World Cup winning team in 1966, and Charlie Chaplin. Historic figures depicted include Captain Cook, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Fleming and Charles Darwin.

A Dalek had originally been chosen by the Royal Mail but Mortimer's version - presenting Dr Who's arch-enemy against a pink background - had to be set aside after objections.

"Some guy who looks after the Daleks' worldwide image said, 'No, we don't like it'. He took a real affront to my painting and he just thought it was ridiculous," said the artist. Sharples was chosen as an alternative.

The character was played by actress Violet Carson, who died in 1983 aged 85. She starred in the first episode of the soap opera in 1960 and appeared in more than 2,000 episodes until her retirement in 1980.

Sharples's pursed-lip view of the world was shared with Minnie Caldwell in the snug of the Rovers Return over a half of stout - and also to television audiences of more than 20m. The actress once admitted: "Nobody thinks of me as Violet Carson any more. I am Ena Sharples wherever I go."

Mortimer, regarded as one of the most talented artists of his generation, has submitted his portrait of the soap star to Granada Television, which makes Coronation Street, and is optimistic that it will get the g