Saturday, 26 April 2014

When a Welshman went to Weatherfield

Despite it being a dull and dreary day, nothing could dampen my excitement at going on the Coronation Street Tour on Wednesday, 23rd of April. I went with my friends Scott, Mostyn and Gwenfair, who are also fans of Coronation Street and set off from North Wales. Our tour was at 14:20, so we arrived in Manchester around 11:00 and with time to spare, we went to visit The People’s Museum which is down the road from Granada Studios. The museum told the story of the development of democracy in Britain – from the common man getting the vote to women getting the vote after fighting for so long. It also depicts the story of the socialist life of the North West of England and there’s a close link there to Coronation Street. After all, that was Tony Warren’s aim when creating the programme – the story of the ordinary folk of working class Northern England.

We then went for lunch at an Italian restaurant before walking to the studios, the four of us buzzing as we saw signs guiding us there. We were given our backstage passes and while we waited, we sat in the café and watched Coronation Street: A Moving Story that was on TV there. On the foyer to the café, you can see photos of classic Corrie characters like Alf and Audrey, the snug trio and Bet and Alec.

We then began our tour, led by our tour guide Andy, a true Lancastrian! Starting off in the green room, we then commenced through the corridor of stars that again had photos (some I hadn’t seen before) on the wall of the likes of Elsie, Betty and Len Fairclough, Ray Langton and Jerry Booth. Our next stop was the make-up and costume department which was also very interesting and we got to see Rita’s clothes – some of them dating back to her shoulder-padded years in the 1980s!

After watching a five minute film of the history of Corrie, we then went to see the interior sets. I had heard they were small, but I didn’t realise they were that small. It was Gail’s house that shocked me to be honest! We then saw Martha Fraser’s barge and the attention to detail was incredible – from the mugs to Ken’s kimono! There were various props on display as well, from Deirdre’s glasses to Elsie Tanner’s handbag and red telephone. It was a shame that we couldn’t take photos inside!

Then we entered the Rovers interior set, which again was really small and I found it hard to believe that they can fit in so many characters onto the set when there’s a party or even a Christmas episode! One of the highlights of course was getting our photo taken behind the bar, with me doing a landlord pose! To think that the likes of Betty, Bet Lynch and the Duckworths had stood behind that bar. It’s incredible.

Andy then showed us the Duckworths set and he emphasised how every set represents the characters that live in that house. There was the bar in the corner and Jack’s stuffed pigeon and a Charles and Diana tea-towel. While telling us about the history of the house, Andy said that Ken and Valerie Barlow lived there, but incorrectly stated that Valerie was electrocuted there. They had actually moved from No.9 in 1968 into the newly built maisonettes across the road and that was where Val died. It was Val’s death that resulted in the maisonettes being demolished in 1971. I know, I’m a Corrie anorak! He also incorrectly stated that Tyrone had married Kirsty, but they didn’t! We then visited the Underworld set and what was great was as we entered, Mike Baldwin’s voice thundered over us. Andy then told us some interesting facts about the set as he did with every other.

Then we reached the crescendo. With the Corrie theme tune trumpeting over us, the door of Nick’s Bistro opened to the nation’s favourite street. And what a thrill it was. As I stepped onto the cobbles, I was in total awe. As I walked, Vic Damone’s number one song from 1956 (written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner for the musical My Fair Lady) came to my mind:

I have often walked down this street before,
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before
All at once am I, several storeys high,
Knowing I’m on the street where you* live. 
*Corrie characters

And then I began to quote Mel Hutchwright, played by Ian McKellen:

“Inhaling this Northern air, and the cobbles, and the pigeons…I see the history of generations; what countless shoes have worn these cobbles down, what were their owner’s thoughts, their lives.”

Our first stop was a photo outside The Kabin and then we went around the set taking photos of the street and the Rovers and then over to Roy’s Rolls. Another thrill, which my friend Gwenfair hadn’t realised, was going round the back to the ginnel and entering the Rovers backyard and were startled when Blanche started talking! As we walked through the ginnel, the voices of Hilda Ogden, Fred Elliott and Norris echoed across the cobbles.

As we talked Welsh to each other, one of the tour guides came over and asked where we came from. When we said North Wales, he spoke Welsh to us and it turned out that he came from the same town as us. But we didn’t know him as he had left Llanrwst for Manchester 16 years ago. He said that he had been an extra on the show once and when he saw an advert asking for tour guides, he jumped at the chance. It was a really odd occurrence seeing him! 

Before setting off home, we visited the gift shop and bought a few bars of chocolate and a souvenir key-ring. For those of you interested in Corrie memorabilia, the shop sold various Corrie mugs, bags, ornaments, coasters and books. 

We drove home towards North Wales with beaming smiles on all our faces. It was an incredible day – our dreams had come true! We had a lot of fun as well which made the visit extra special!

If you are considering coming for a visit, I would urge you to go! It really is magical! 

If you are on Facebook, you can see more of my photos here

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Graeme N said...

Terrific! So pleased you had a good day :)

Anonymous said...

Nice choice of photos, looks like you all had a really great day. Makes me wish I lived (a lot) closer; the tour would be the first thing I'd do.
Yes too bad about the no- photos- inside- the- set rule, and good for you for spotting the errors; Andy, take note! Good report, thanks.

Flaming Nora said...

What a great write-up, llifon, thank you!

Anonymous said...

While we're in "nerd" mode, Vic Damone may have sung "On The Street Where You Live", but please give credit to its writers, Lerner & Loewe. It's from My Fair Lady.

Tvor said...

Glad you enjoyed it, the first time really is magic. I too picked up on a few errors that the guides told us but didn't say anything because it wasn't really that big a deal. I did mention to some of the others in the group that Elsie Tanner's red phone set a precedent and that there has been a red phone in number 11 ever since.

abbyk said...

Great write up and thanks for sharing your FB pictures (and since I don't understand Welsh, your real world friends comments are still secret). It was almost like being there.

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