The British Soap Awards Celebrates 21 Years looks back at more than two decades of the prize-giving ceremony this weekend, in the absence of the 2020 event which was cancelled due to the pandemic, and among the archive treats in store are some truly adorable throwbacks of kids we’ve watched grow up on our screens.
Prepare to emit a big ‘Awwwww’ as the special programme, narrated by Phillip Schofield, devotes a whole section to soap child actors who won awards for their performances in the early days of their careers, before they became grown-ups. No doubt they’ll be watching through their fingers as the classic clips come out… But how much have these soap kiddies changed over the years?
Kelvin Fletcher (Emmerdale’s Andy Sugden)
Cutie Kelvin won Best Dramatic Performance at the first ever British Soap Awards back in 1999, beating off competition from the likes of Barbara Windsor and Georgia Taylor. He was 15 at the time (but looks about 6!) and spent 20 years in all as Andy Sugden, a young tearaway adopted into Emmerdale‘s first family, blossoming from wimpy kid into a buff beast of a man by the time he quit in 2016. Fletcher won 2019’s Strictly Come Dancing with pro partner Oti Mabuse.
Ray Quinn (Brookside’s Anthony Murray)
Future X Factor finalist Ray was only 13 when he bagged the Best Dramatic Performance gong for the decidedly dark plot from now-defunct C4 soap Brookside about his alter ego, Anthony Murray, murdering his bully. He was barely recognisable four years later when he auditioned as a slick crooner for the third series of The X Factor in 2006, getting down to the last two where he was beaten by Leona Lewis. In 2009 he won Dancing on Ice, and was later named the ‘champion of champions’ in 2014’s All-Star series. Quinn has enjoyed continued success in musical theatre and recording, and returned to soap in 2018 with a year-long stint on Hollyoaks as sinister far right extremist Jonny Baxter.
Sam Aston (Coronation Street’s Chesney Brown)
Remember when Chesney (named by mum Cilla after the early 1990s pop star) was Fiz’s pint-sized little brother whose best friend was a massive dog called Schmeichel? Aston won Best Performance by a Young Actor in 2005 when he was just 11, having joined Coronation Street 18 months before. He’s still there, and Ches is now a fully grown family man with the big responsibility of four kids – Aston himself, now 27, has a bubba on the way in real life too. Where does the time go…?
Maisie Smith (EastEnders’ Tiffany Butcher-Baker)
A genuine star discovery at the age of six, Smith joined EastEnders in 2008 as the mini-me daughter of Bianca Jackson. She won Best Performance by a Young Actor in 2009, a year after her debut, and won our hearts as the irrepressible offspring of Walford’s gobby legend. Patsy Palmer’s decision to quit as Bianca in 2014 meant Tiff (named after her mum’s tragic BFF, played by Martine McCutcheon) had to be written out too. But Smith rejoined the regular cast in 2018 with Tiff now a sassy teen, moving back to Albert Square to live with older sister Whitney Dean, and the red-head is now a married woman having tied the knot with Keegan Baker in 2019 – and morphing into Bianca more and more.