EastEnders has been crowned best soap at the British Soap Awards, where host Jane McDonald proved a hit after taking over from Phillip Schofield.
The ceremony, at The Lowry in Salford Quays, was presented by McDonald after she stepped in to replace Schofield when he quit ITV amid a furore over his extramarital affair with a younger male colleague.
Wearing a gold sequinned floor-length dress, McDonald told the audience: “I’ve got to say I am a massive fan of the soaps so this is my dream job.
“Welcome to you all, thank you for having me.”
As the awards came to a close, she said: “I’m off for a knees-up with all my favourite soapstars, I’m so excited.”
Her appearance was also met with excitement by the cast members.
Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson said fellow cast member Ross Adams, who plays Scott Drinkwell, was particularly pleased with the new host.
She said: “Ross Adams is like her biggest fan ever, as soon as he found out, he was completely fangirling about it. So it’s really exciting for us that she’s doing it but really exciting for Ross.”
Adams was able to get up close and personal to his favourite when she sat on his knee to deliver a link.
The coveted best soap award, voted for by the public, was presented to EastEnders by actress Dame Sheila Hancock, who said: “I’m so deeply honoured to be asked to do this. I have such admiration for you.”
Accepting the award with the rest of the cast on stage, Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy Mitchell, said: “From the bottom of our hearts, honestly, we are thrilled to bits.”
The Walford drama also claimed best leading performer for Danielle Harold’s portrayal of Lola Pearce-Brown, who died following a brain tumour.
Accepting the award, Harold said: “This isn’t for me. This is definitely for every single person who’s worked with me along the way who has been directly affected by brain tumours, people who are suffering from brain tumours.
“Their time has been so precious to them and even more to me and I can’t thank all of you enough for helping me.”
The soap won villain of the year for Aaron Thiara, who plays Ravi Gulati, and best young performer, which went to Lillia Turner as Lily Slater.
Coronation Street won the most accolades of the night, with six prizes including for best single episode and scene of the year for the show’s depiction of an acid attack carried out by Justin Rutherford (Andrew Still), who had been stalking Daisy Midgeley (Charlotte Jordan).
Ryan Prescott, whose character Ryan Connor was injured in the attack, said there had been 330 acid attacks in Manchester in the last year.
He said: “It was amazing to be part of something that could bring a light to something so sensitive and something that is happening way more than we actually know.”
Jordan won best dramatic performance, while the show’s Dame Maureen Lipman, who plays Evelyn Plummer, won best comedy performer and Channique Sterling-Brown won best newcomer for her performance as Dee-Dee Bailey.
The Weatherfield- based soap also went home with the best family award, which went to the Platts.
Hollyoaks was awarded best storyline for a plot which saw Sanderson’s character Maxine Minniver targeted by incel Eric Foster (Angus Castle-Doughty) alongside her brother Mason Chen-Williams (Frank Kauer).
The soap’s head of casting was awarded the Tony Warren Award.
Emmerdale’s Mark Charnock, who plays Marlon Dingle, was given an outstanding achievement award and told the audience: “What a job, I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Doctors actors Chris Walker and Jan Pearson took home the best on-screen partnership gong for their performances as Rob and Karen Hollins in the daytime soap.
The British Soap Awards airs on Tuesday at 8pm on ITV1 and ITVX.