Emmerdale and EastEnders have dominated at the first British Soap Awards since 2019.
The ITV and BBC soap opera’s secured four awards each, but Emmerdale won all three awards voted for by the public and took home the sought-after best soap gong in its 50th anniversary year.
The cast erupted in cheers as the ITV show’s title was called out as the winner of best soap, before taking to the stage.
Karen Blick, who plays Lydia Hart, spoke on behalf of the throng of stars.
She said: “It means the world as it is a public vote. Well done to the whole team who did not go off-air for the whole of the pandemic.
“It is an absolute honour in our 50th year, there is going to be more drama in the Dales. This is for everyone back in Yorkshire.”
The soap also took home best leading performer for Paige Sandhu’s serial killing character Meena Jutla, and fan favourite Mark Charnock took home best dramatic performance for his stroke storyline.
During his winner’s speech, the 53-year-old actor said “not enough is being done” to fundraise for stroke research and “more needs to be done”.
Charnock returned to the stage with his Emmerdale co-stars to collect the best family award which went to the Dingles. They dedicated the gong to late actor Andy Devine, who played Shadrach Dingle in the show for almost a decade.
Meanwhile EastEnders’ Ross Boatman, who plays Harvey Monroe, took home best newcomer, best comedy went to Tameka Empson who plays Kim Fox, and “soap icon” Letitia Dean took home outstanding achievement award.
Dean, who was presented the award by soap star Anita Dobson, dedicated the award to her father “who died a week ago” in an emotional winner’s speech.
She said: “This is for my daddy and my darling mummy, I hope you’re enjoying your fish and chips.”
Dobson added: “She has been in 2000 episodes, she has had 237 ‘doof-doof’s’, and she has also been landlord of the Queen Vic six times.
“She has had amazing storylines, the death of her son, return from the grave of her father, and her affair with Phil Mitchell which brought in 23.5 million viewers.
“She is quirky, funny, talented, glamorous, and iconic.”
EastEnders also took home best on-screen partnership for Lacey Turner and Gillian Wright’s performance as Stacey Slater and her mother Jean, nominated for Jean’s bipolar storyline.
Wright said: “This is the best award to get, I love working with this lady. She is the most talented and generous, instinctive and truthful actor I know.
“She brings a lot of joy and happiness to the set, everyone loves her and why wouldn’t they. It is an absolute privilege to work with you, may I never take it for granted.”
Turner added: “I have watched you work for the last 15 years and it is such an honour. The amount of effort you put into Jean is mesmerising and you make me a better actor.”
TV presenter Phillip Schofield returned to host the much-anticipated awards ceremony at London’s Hackney Empire following a three-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Schofield said: “We are back. For the first time since 2019, our favourite soap stars are all here together.
“Our favourite shows have faced and overcome challenges in the midst of a pandemic, they fought to make it back onto our screens providing us with entertainment we so badly needed and for that we are grateful.”
ITV’s Coronation Street secured best young performer, the Tony Warren award and villain of the year which went to Maximus Evans – who plays Corey Brent.
Meanwhile, Hollyoaks picked up scene of the year and best storyline for Misbah Maalik’s historic rape, played by actress Harvey Virdi.
Accepting her best storyline prize, Virdi said: “This means a lot to us, it is a very serious subject, we know a lot of the victims do not get legal justice.
“I hope we can show that by accepting and healing yourself maybe you can move forward.”
The gong for best single episode went to Doctors for Laura White’s performance as Dr Princess Buchanan.
This year the awards, which celebrate the country’s favourite soap operas, were made gender-neutral.