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Rita Sullivan (née Littlewood, previously Fairclough) is a long-standing character in the UK television ITV soap opera, Coronation Streetmarker. Portrayed by actress Barbara Knox the character first appeared on-screen during the episode airing on 2 December 1964.



Before 2006, Barbara Knox was the reported to be the highest paid actress with the show, until Anne Kirkbride began to earn more. Knox's salary is £260,000 which producers pay to keep her in a secure future with the series.

In January 2009, it was speculated that the character was going to be axed from the show in a bid to save money but this was later denied by a show spokesman. Knox will be absent from the soap for six weeks because she is taking time off due to a health problem.


Rita was introduced in 1964 as an exotic dancer and friend of Dennis Tanner, although this was a one-off appearance. She returned in 1972 and has appeared consistently since then, maturing from saucy songstress to respected elder and local businesswoman.

The Kabin

Rita currently runs a newsagent's shop in the street, called "The Kabin", which she acquired in 1973 during her relationship with Len. The shop was originally at 14 Rosamund Street, but re-located to Coronation Street when a new building development took place. As the years passed, more and more of Rita's life revolved around The Kabin, although she sometimes considers retiring or selling up.

The scenes in The Kabin are usually a comedy double-act between Rita and her assistant (first Mavis Wilton, now Norris Cole). Rita was often frustrated by Mavis but they were dear friends and Rita was sad to see her leave in 1997. She then hired Norris and the pair eventually became partners in the business.
Rita as she appeared in 1973.

Shortly after Norris' brother Ramsay died in August 2009, she decided that life was too short and wanted to retire. When Norris got money from Ramsay's will, he decided to buy up the Kabin and get Rita's share. She then revealed she wanted to go on a cruise and enjoy retirement. This has ended 36 years of her working in the Kabin.



Rita's 1972 return first saw her with Ken Barlow, as they met through her 12-year old stepson, Terry Bates. Ken was told to end their relationship as she was a married woman. However, it was later revealed that Rita was only living with Terry's father, Harry Bates, not married to him; a plot device introduced because producers saw the potential in a relationship between Rita and the character of Len Fairclough.

Rita and Ken began an on-off relationship which was to last for eleven stormy years. Len was none too pleased when he found out about Harry, but when that relationship ended in violence, Rita leaned on Len and took a job singing in a nightclub. Len soon helped her set up a shop, The Kabin, in 1973. Fiery Rita and stubborn Len faced a number of obstacles as well as break-ups and make-ups before finally marrying in 1977. They'd already had one engagement, but broke it off. They were unable to adopt, due to their age, but for some time took in a foster child, Sharon Gaskell. In December 1983 Len was killed in a car accident. Rita was devastated to learn he'd been having an affair.

As well as her two marriages, Rita has had three serious relationships, one with the violent Alan Bradley. Rita met Alan when she was fostering Jenny Bradley and got Jenny in contact with her long-lost father. Alan and Rita started a relationship, but Rita was unaware that Alan Bradley was also seeing Gloria Todd, a Rovers barmaid. She eventually found out about their affair and gave Alan an ultimatum. Alan chose Gloria, but Gloria changed her mind and ended their affair.

However, Alan was not just a cheat; he was also a conman, mortgaging Rita's house in the name of Rita's late husband, Len Fairclough. He used the money to start a security business. There he started Dawn Prescott as a receptionist, but things began to go downhill when he tried to rape her. Dawn told Rita about the attack and about the letters that arrived in the name of Len Fairclough to the workplace. Alan was furious when Rita told him she'd informed the building society about him, and he attempted to suffocate her with a pillow at their home, 7 Coronation Street.

Alan started working on a building site opposite No 7 and began to stalk Rita, until eventually she had a breakdown and disappeared. Police suspected Alan had murdered Rita, and the site was dug up. Meanwhile the Gilroys found Rita singing in a nightspot in Blackpoolmarker, but when Alan heard about it, he followed Rita there. Alan tracked her down and tried to drag her to his car to take her back to Weatherfield. Once Rita was in the car, Alan made his way round to the driver's side but Rita jumped out and ran across the street. Alan gave chase only to be knocked down by a passing tram, he was killed instantly. Almost 27 million viewers tuned in to see the episode which was broadcast in 1989.


Rita met her second husband, Ted Sullivan at the Kabin; he was a sales rep for a firm of sweet manufacturers. Shortly before their marriage, Ted confessed that he was dying of a brain tumour. Rita then abandoned plans to retire abroad, and decided to stay in the Street. Their marriage lasted three months when Rita found Ted dead on a park bench, watching Percy Sugden playing a bowls match.

In April 1997, her best friend Mavis Wilton's beloved husband Derek died on Mavis's birthday of a heart attack due to a road rage incident. Rita poured all her energy into Mavis's life in helping her cope alone with her grief. To help her cope, Rita persuaded Mavis to start a new life in the Lake District managing a Bed & Breakfast. Mavis agreed, and made plans to sell their houses and The Kabin. At the last minute, Rita backed out and Mavis, anxious to get away from Weatherfield and her bad memories, went to Cartmel on her own.

In 1998, Rita Sullivan took Leanne Battersby under her wing when she gave Leanne a job. Rita saw her as a lot like herself at that age. Leanne soon became an asset to Rita, even though they didn't have the friendship and closeness that Rita and Mavis had.

In July 1998 Rita collapsed in her flat from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty gas fire that Steve McDonald had installed a few days before. Luckily she was saved by her friend and former nightclub cabaret manager Alec Gilroy who was worried about her not turning up at the Rovers when she was supposed to. Things took an unexpected turn when Alec realising how he almost lost his best friend, proposed to Rita. After a few days, Rita accepted his proposal after initially turning him down. After a while they both decided to live together and Alec had a connecting door installed between their two flats for easier access - much to the amusement of the other Street residents. In December 1998 Rita and Alec mutually ended their relationship when both realised they couldn't trust each other. Alec left Weatherfield for good when he went to open up a wine bar in Brighton with his granddaughter Vicky Arden.

Rita had a surprise when her former foster daughter Sharon Gaskell arrived. Sharon had come to visit Rita to invite her to her wedding in Nottingham. Rita persuaded her to have the wedding in Weatherfield. However, in March 1999, the wedding didn't take place as Rita had discovered Sharon's fiancé, Ian, was two-timing her with the new landlady of the Rovers, Natalie Barnes. Happy that Sharon decided to stay after the wedding fiasco, Rita offered Sharon a job at The Kabin and Alec's old flat which she happily accepted.

Much to the horror of Leanne, and a few of Rita's other friends, Rita offered Sharon The Kabin as a birthday gift. Leanne didn't want to work with two bosses and left after she was accused of stealing money from the till, and went to work as barmaid at the Rovers. Rita admitted to Sharon that she was lonely, that was why she offered Sharon The Kabin. However, Rita was devastated when Sharon reunited with Ian and he persuaded her to sell The Kabin so they could buy a house together. Rita refused to attend the wedding, and ended up buying back her own business. In response to Sharon's actions, Rita told her she had now had her inheritance, and would therefore not receive anything in Rita's will.

Finally, Rita Bradley met Anthony Stephens, a cultured man who wanted to marry her. However, Anthony had a secret; his 'late' wife was still alive, but because of severe Alzheimer's had no memory of him. Anthony's grown-up children were horrified by his relationship with Rita, and when his wife died suddenly, Anthony went to live in New Zealand.


In 2004, Rita once clipped Chesney Brown around the ear for repeatedly stealing sweets from her shop. However, Chesney fell against some shelving and hurt his head. He wasn't hurt badly but when Chesney's conniving mother, Cilla learned of the incident she spotted an opportunity for compensation. She happily made the most out of her son's injuries. The Battersby-Browns had Chesney checked up at the hospital, with Cilla prompting her son to complain of fake symptoms so that he would be certified with extreme concussion as a result of Rita's 'abuse'. Rita was arrested and charged with assaulting a minor and Cilla set about trying to ruin Rita's reputation.

At her appearance in court, Rita was found guilty of the charge, no thanks to Cilla coaching Chesney into saying the 'right' answers and she was ordered to pay £500 in damages to the Battersbys and £500 in court fees. When asked if she had any comments, Rita verbally abused the magistrates, calling them "numbskulls" and making clear how angry she was at the injustice of the whole situation.

The magistrate was disgusted at Rita's outburst and she was held in contempt of court and sentenced to a night in the cells. Disappointed with the court payment, Cilla threatened Rita with civil court action if she did not pay a £3,000 out of court settlement. Rita put The Kabin on the market and prepared to leave the area, but Les Battersby talked Cilla out of the compensation action and Rita stayed in her rightful place. Rita continued to hate Cilla, but bore no ill will against Chesney, even taking him in one night when he had nowhere else to go and later employing him to do the paper round.

In 2006, Rita Sullivan faced the trauma of her flat being broken into. Orchid, who was in Coronation Street in 2004 when she conned Fred Elliott by pretending to be a Thai bride when actually she was from Manchester and her real name was Stacey, reappeared in 2006. She had conned another man called Stuart, he locked her in his flat for days at a time. One day, she escaped and was beaten up by the boyfriend. She moved into the street and started living with Rita. One day, they returned from town to find Rita's flat totally ruined. A couple of days later, Rita was terrified when Stuart came into The Kabin, demanding to see Stacey. He threatened to beat Rita up if she did not tell him where Stacey was hiding. Stacey came to the shop, along with Fred, and there was trouble. Nathan, who was working in Webster's Garage, came over and pinned Stuart down on the floor. The police came and arrested him and Stacey. Rita decided to move into her friend's house, while Emily Bishop and her other friend Norris Cole temporarily moved into Rita's flat.

In October 2006, Rita and Norris went on a holiday they had won to Hungarymarker. Rita broke her toes whilst there and had to stay in hospital, while Norris returned. Ken Barlow helped out in The Kabin for a while whilst they were away, but he quit when Norris's nagging became too much for him. Rita returned in November 2006 to reveal that she broke her foot when Norris tripped her while trying to get to a bread bun first.

Rita has met up with her old friend Doreen. She had invited her to move into her flat which followed Doreen's eviction, much to the chagrin of disapproving Norris. While she and Doreen initially got on, enjoying reminiscences of the old days, Doreen outstayed her welcome, claiming that the council were delaying completion of works to her flat. Rita, who had come to the end of her tether, phoned Weatherfield Council pretending to be Doreen, and found out that the works were long since completed. After Rita confronted her, Doreen packed her bags and left Coronation Street, however she soon returned after being persuaded by the most unlikely of people - Norris.

On 2 September 2007 Norris proposed to Rita, However Rita said no to Norris's proposal, also telling him that she had expected it for some time but had always known what her answer would be - he also went onto propose to Doreen.

In May 2008, The Kabin was vandalised by a gang of youths. When Tony Gordon made an offer for The Kabin and the flat, Rita agreed, as she realised she was getting on. Norris was angry with her, as she made the decision despite him owning part of The Kabin. When Tony began practising heavy-handed tactics on other local businesses like Kevin Webster's garage, Rita began to doubt her decision. Tony then reassured Rita after she had confronted him and Carla in Underworld; Tony then showed Rita an apartment she might be interested in. A deal was never struck between Rita and Tony as Kevin refused to sell the garage.

In December 2008, she met Eileen Grimshaw's father Colin. Colin was immediately attracted to Rita and charmed her with presents; the pair soon hit it off. In February 2009, she admitted to Eileen that she really liked him, and Eileen told her to go for it. On 27 April 2009, Rita organised a party in the Rovers for Colin's 70th birthday. During the celebrations, Colin proposed to her and she gladly accepted. She later had a heart-to-heart with Norris, who had always harboured feelings for her, insisting that she was happy and reassured him that he would always be very dear to her. The celebrations came to an abrupt end when a drunken Paula Carp entered the pub and revealed that Colin was the father of her daughter Julie whom she gave birth to when she was fifteen. Both disgusted and devastated that the man she was in love with had had sex with an underage girl, Rita called off the engagement. However, when Colin later died, she was saddened and obviously still loved him.

In September 2009, she decided to sell up the Kabin and retire after she realised life was too short. This occured after the death of Norris' brother Ramsay. She sold her shares to Norris and revealed she will be going on a cruise around the world.


Rita will Return in February 2010.


At the 2004 British Soap Awards Barbara Knox was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her portrayal of Rita. The 2006 ceremony saw Knox and Malcolm Hebden, who plays Norris, win the award for "Best On-Screen Partnership."


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