As those of you who read my Twitter feed will know I’ve just spent a fun weekend up in Manchester visiting the set of the world’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street. Read on to find out how my day went and to get an insight into the production of one of the most popular shows on British TV.
Firstly I should tell you that Coronation Street is no longer filmed here at the old Granada Studios, it was moved a couple of years ago to a brand new, bigger complex at Media City in Salford.
Entering the studio complex feels a little sad, like the end of an era, Granada was one of ITV’s biggest programme producers and an awful lot of popular TV shows were filmed here. After getting our studio passes we were gathered together to start the tour. Our guide, Shannon, a lively, friendly girl and took us over to where the tour began, the entrance that the stars of the “Street” used when they came to work. The entrance also doubled up as Drapers Mill Apartments, Carla Connor’s home when she first arrived on Coronation Street.
We walk inside and straight into the actors green room, this was where they would have relaxed before being called to makeup and onto set. There were mail boxes with the actors names on which was where scripts were dropped, a large notice board telling the actors where they needed to be and when and a small quiet area off the main lounge. I was quite surprised as to how basic the area was.
Our guide took us through a maze of corridors filled with pictures of past and present famous faces until we came to the dressing rooms of some of the biggest names. William Roache, Barbara Knox, Helen Worth, Beverly Callard to name a few. Again I was surprised as to how basic the dressing rooms were but I suppose with all the actors bits and pieces they would have been very different.
Costume and makeup was our next stop and we were shown some original costumes from the show as well as some filming secrets. Shooting out of sequence is quite common apparently and we were told about one of Tracy Barlow’s weddings which of course didn’t go to plan, and how the end was shot before the beginning so three wedding dresses were needed, the first one being covered in dirt and torn after a catfight scene.
We also saw the wedding outfits from Beth and Kirk’s 80’s style wedding.
After a short film showing some of the highlights of Coronation Street from the past and present we were taken on to the main sound stage where we were able to see some of the old sets. This was one of the most interesting parts for me. We started with the inside of Carla’s old flat, it was explained that a lot of the sets are only used occasionally and when they are built detailed photographs are taken before filming so that the set can be recreated accurately next time it’s needed.
Another interesting set was the Platt’s house, it was really small with smaller than normal furniture. Shannon explained to us that the kitchen on this set was fully working with running water etc. She also explained that whenever anyone went upstairs they had to wait on a small platform at the top until filming downstairs was finished, apparently on the new set the platform has been enlarged to make it more comfortable for the actors.
The set from the Rovers Return pub was my favourite as we got to go on to it and sit in the booths and go behind the bar, I was really shocked at how small it actually was. It was interesting though to find out that whole sections could be taken out for filming or even just a window. We learned a few more filming secrets here, the beer used is watered down non alcoholic larger – not tea like it used to be! – white wine is watered down apple juice, and the famous Betty’s Hot Pot is canteen leftovers topped with instant mash potato.
Other sets seen were the interior of The Kabin, the Duckworth’s / Dobbs house, Martha’s barge and the interior of Underworld.
There were also some displays showing some of the more iconic props from the show including Ena Sharples hair net, Roy’s train set, and Deirdre’s glasses as well as an area filled with some of the many awards the show has won over the years.
Leaving the main studio we walked through some of the old Production Suites where the directors and other production staff would have sat while filming was taking place.
For the final part of the tour we entered an old railway arch which had bits of wall and bricks from the famous tram crash episode, of course the bricks and bits of wall weren’t real they were made from polystyrene and painted up to look realistic on screen. The empty railway arch turned out to be the inside of Nick’s Bistro, and, as the doors opened we were let out onto the cobbles of Coronation Street itself.
The street is quite small in real life but it was exciting to wander around it seeing all those famous houses close up and walking into the gardens of the Platt’s, the Websters and the like.
We saw the outside facades of The Kabin, Underworld, and Webster’s Garage, Dev’s shop and Nick’s Bistro.
We were able to wander down the Ginnel (the back alley) and peek into the back yards of the Coronation Street residents.
Further down was Audrey’s Salon, Rosamund Street with Street Cars, Roy’s Rolls, the Prima Doner kebab shop and the medical centre and not forgetting the most famous pub in the world, the Rovers Return
We were allowed to spend as long as we wanted on the street and it was great to be left to just wander about.
I had the most amazing day up at Coronation Street and would recommend the tour to anybody whether you’re a fan or not, but hurry as it closes in December this year for good.