Dame Barbara Windsor has described herself as a “lucky little lady” as she was recognised for her decades of work in television.
The stalwart of the small screen told of her surprise and gratitude on being awarded the outstanding contribution to television gong at the TV Choice awards.
The former EastEnders star, who will turn 80 next year, joined a host of celebrities for the star-studded event in London on Monday evening.
Describing the soap as a pivotal part of her lengthy career, she told the audience: “And then EastEnders came along. What a lucky little lady I was. And that was it. It was exactly what I wanted. I was so grateful. It’s wonderful to walk along the street and have them go ‘Hello Peggy, how are you?’.”
Her character Peggy Mitchell, played by Dame Barbara since 1994, took her own life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in scenes broadcast in May.
Barbara said: “Although Peggy may no longer be with us, she and the show will never leave my heart.”
ITV soap Emmerdale scooped the best soap award over EastEnders, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks for the first time.
The swansong series of Downton Abbey was named best drama series, while best actor went to Tom Hiddleston for BBC One’s The Night Manager.
Tom, who is currently filming Thor, sent a video message from Australia, and was joined by his co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba as he made a thank-you speech to camera.
He said: “I’m so sorry I can’t be there tonight, I’m sure you all look lovely,” before being interrupted by Hemsworth who joked that the award was for his former soap Home And Away, and Elba, who noted that his TV series Luther had not been nominated.
During the evening, the stars at London’s Dorchester hotel paid tribute to some of those who have died this year.
This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield recalled the show’s agony aunt as he collected the best daytime show prize.
He said: “I want to dedicate this this year to Denise Robertson. This was actually one of her favourite nights out so she would have loved this.”
Picking up the award for best lifestyle show, Gogglebox stars Chris Steed and Stephen Webb remembered the show’s narrator.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost so many amazing TV personalities this year and we really wanted to dedicate this to one of our Gogglebox family – Caroline Aherne,” they said.
Happy Valley’s leading lady Sarah Lancashire beat the likes of Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael, Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones and Peaky Blinders star Helen McCrory to be named best actress.
Doctor Foster triumphed in another category as it was named best new drama.
Mary Berry collected the prize for best talent show for The Great British Bake Off.