Wednesday, 10 November 2010

IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO A TOUR GUIDE!

Over the past decade or so I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take literally hundreds of Corrie fans to many of the locations used in filming the show, and in some cases, to the very cobbles themselves. How this came about is a long story but it started thanks to me agreeing to give a small group of Canadian fans a tour around the Oldham Coliseum Theatre where I worked at the time and which has strong links to lots the cast. I’ve also had, thanks to my proper job, the good fortune to get to know many of the cast – past and present, and to work alongside people such as the actors who play Chesney, Ken, Jason, Sean and many more.

I’m a fan myself and the earliest episode of Coronation Street I can recall watching was the one, in 1979, when a lorry ploughed into the front of the Rovers. Deirdre had left a young Tracy outside in her pram and everyone thought she’d been killed (now, looking back it’s a pity she wasn’t!) but of course, in true drama style she’d been kidnapped moments before the crash. The fact that, 30-odd years later, all those references will still mean something to viewers who weren’t even born at the time is one of Corrie’s strengths.

Each year I am asked to take groups around the many Corrie ‘off studio’ locations such as where Richard Hillman died, where the weddings and funerals take place, and so. It’s something I love to do and in the past 12 months or so I’ve looked after fans from the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy and New Zealand.

The following are just some of the more unusual incidents to have happened to me on my tours:

The park which is used as the location of the Red Rec overlooks several rows of houses which have been refurbished over recent years. In the build up to this the developers moved residents out of their homes so it was a bit controversial. On one of my visits, with forty fans in tow, a lady emerged from one of the houses to berate us. She thought we were the developers. When she finally accepted that we were Corrie fans she invited the group into her home to take a look at a two-up and two-down. As the last fan entered the house she suddenly looked at me and said: “Oh no, my husband’s asleep upstairs!” She’d quite forgotten in the heat of the moment.

We were at Ryecroft Hall, which doubles as Weatherfield Registry Office, when the six or so ladies I was looking after suddenly decided to run around the corner of the building shouting “Don’t do it – it’s me he loves!” I tried to think of what storyline they were re-enacting. I couldn’t place it. I asked them and they seemed confused. It turned out they were remembering something that had happened in entirely the wrong soap-opera!

When I recently filmed a segment for the upcoming CBC ‘Corrie Crazy’ show we were at the scene of Richard Hillman’s death, a canal bank. The director thought it would be fun if I were to lie out on the quayside like a dead Richard Hillman and have the presenter walk and talk to the camera and just step over me. Very funny except that the quayside is covered in Canada geese poo. Some things I draw the line at!

Filming Blanche's funeral.  ITV
Sometimes I have to go and identify a location and I often visit early in the morning because when you’re driving, studying a map and trying to look for the hidden location it’s easier when there’s no traffic around. This is how I found myself at the location of Blanche’s funeral at 6.30am. I was creeping through the graveyard in the gloom trying to find the exact burial spot when I stumbled across another chap. We sort of, like in a comedy sketch, backed into each other. I don’t know who was most frightened. It turned out he was doing some family tree research and was looking for a gravestone with his surname on it. Or at least, that’s what he said!

Sometimes I get an odd request from a group, and sometimes they have their own secret agenda – like the lady who had been a huge fan of Uncle Albert and wanted to visit the British Legion club he used to drink in or the lady who wanted a picture of her messing up William Roache’s hair for a friend – all achieved. Then there was a lady who was so obsessed with Hilda Ogden that she wanted to be taken to actress Jean Alexander’s home. I couldn’t help with that but we did take her to the British Lawnmower Museum where Jean’s own lawnmower is on display. That seemed to please her and she must have had fifty or so pictures of herself taken with the lawnmower! And what about the lady who recently asked if I knew the hotel and room number which was used by Kevin and Molly for their trysts. I assume she wanted to get in there for some reason. When I told her that the room had been a set in the studio she seemed very upset!

Mainly I have groups of ladies to look after – and more often than not they want to visit somewhere associated with Liam or Steve or Jason – one of the good-lookers. One lady practically fainted when she sat in Steve’s chair in the Streetcars office, another found her way into the toilet that Jason escaped out of when he fled from the first wedding to Sarah. She boarded the coach with some toilet paper as a souvenir!

I was lucky enough to walk down those famous cobbles when the studios were open to the public. Since then I’ve walked down the set dozens of times and met the vast majority of the cast. However, when I’m looking after a group of fans I still remember my first time in ‘Weatherfield’ and try and bring that feeling to others – even if they can’t actually get into the studios themselves.

You'll find my 50 favourite bits of Corrie trivia at http://coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.com/

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