Many moons ago when Bros ruled the airwaves and happy mondays were a day off school, Granada Studios flung open its doors to an eager public including yours truly. This week I got to walk in the footsteps of my teenage self and a slew of iconic characters when I had a sneak preview of the upcoming Coronation Street Tour.
Continuum Group runs the attraction and they are keen to distance themselves from further comparison to the tours of yesteryear. Juliana Delaney, chief executive of Contiuum, told Northern Soul: “This is a guided tour with gossip and titbits, apart from the outside set. This was never open to the public.”
Walking through the hallowed gates of Granada and up to the entrance which was reserved for cast only, I am led straight into the Green Room. There is a lot to see here but unfortunately photography is banned (we were told that pictures will not be allowed on any interiors within the tour but visitors will have the opportunity to take as many photos as they like out on the Street – this is to avoid constant flashes distracting from the experience).
Once through the Green Room, visitors make their way down a narrow corridor of dressing rooms. Some are open for inspection although the identity of the previous owners are a closely guarded secret. The wardrobe department is next, just across the way. It is remarkable and reveals the close proximity in which everyone worked together – it also gives an insight into the need to move the show to the purpose-built complex out at Salford Quays.
As we walk into Studio One there is an air of excitement as we pass through the doors into a space where so many memorable scenes have been filmed. For an appetiser, we are treated to a five minute video of Corrie’s best bits, perfect to set the scene, and then ushered into the studio proper where a number of sets past and present await inspection. Carla’s flat, the Platts, the Duckworths and Underworld are all there and, of course, the Rovers Return.
“The first scene in the Rovers was difficult,” he says. “I was in a scene with Sue Nicholls [Audrey Roberts] and surrounded by cameras and I really had to try and be focused but my heart was beating madly…I was in the Rovers Return.”
The sets for both the Rovers and the Kabin were both static (when coming into Studio One, look out for black and white tiles on the floor and you can see where the Kabin stood) but all the other sets were dismantled when not needed. Art director and set dresser Gavin Lloyd-Smith has enjoyed working on recreating some older sets for the tour. “Each set has unique difficulties and pleasures,” he says. “With the Duckworth set I had more freedom to mix the two lifestyles.”
Round the corner and in the Duckworths’ living room. Here I caught up with Stuart Blackburn, the executive producer of the show. He felt nostalgic coming back to Quay Street but says: “It was the right time to move. The limitations were infuriating. The new set means that we can tell all the stories we want to tell, but better.”
He goes on to confirm that the new set will be revealed slowly. “My mission to the directors was to make it look like Quay Street and not take the audience out of the story.”
Following this, we are treated to some Corrie artefacts such as Bet’s earrings, Deirdre’s glasses and a police sign from a certain tram crash.
Then it’s the moment that the tour has been building up to. After a quick trip through some corridors, we find ourselves in a foyer which turns out to be Nick’s Bistro and, as the doors are opened, the most famous street in Britain is waiting. Guests are allowed to explore it at their leisure, from the Rovers to Street Cars and the back alley where so many assignations have occurred – but be careful of snooping or a ghostly voice from the past will rumble you.
The tour guides have received intensive trained and the scripts are written by Coronation Street scriptwriter Tim Randall. There is a great mix of Corrie trivia and interaction and it lasts for about 45 minutes leaving you to meander along the Street at your own pace.
The tour is on a limited run for six months. Delaney says that more than half the tickets have already been sold in the three weeks they have been available.
What is the future for the Street? No-one knows. It will either face demolition or, if the demand is high, maybe a stay of execution?