Sunday, 23 December 2012

Farewell Christmas in Oldham

Many of you will know - some of you will even take part in them - that for 15 years I've worked with the most amazing team as part of the Oldham Town Centre Partnership to organise the town's Christmas events.  In that time I've worked with lots of real reindeer, ice rinks, fairgrounds, Noddy, Peppa Pig, Ken Barlow, Charlie Chaplin (above) and many more.  The work starts each January when we look back at the previous year and then begin our planning.  Although I won't miss the early starts, snow and rain I will miss the team and the hundreds of performers I've had the joy of working with - brass bands, jugglers, town criers, walking Christmas crackers and the like.
I decided last year that this one, 2012, would be my last so I've now hung up the white beard, brushed all the glitter off my coat and put the elf costumes away for the last time.
I was thrilled to get a call from the local paper, the Chronicle, saying that I had been nominated for a Pride in Oldham award to mark my retirement (I'd have packed it in years ago if I'd have known that's what I needed to do to win something!).  Now I have to garner for votes - I'm up against some wonderful people so I don't expect to win but I'd like to get a few votes to save red faces.... so if you would like to support me please send an email to editor@oldham-chronicle.co.uk with 'Pride in Oldham' in the heading.  Then write 'Voting for Mark Llewellin - 39' and include your name and address if you like (if you live in the UK you might win a invite to the awards dinner just for voting)
Many thanks - if you'd like to vote for someone else then you'll find a full list of nominees on the Chron's website.  Closing date for voting is Jan 6.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Corrie tour guiding

I'm pleased to confirm that I will be touring guiding for Kemptville Travel's World of Coronation Street Tour in 2013.  I'll be looking after the group for 2 days (a locations day and the visit to the studios) while another guide does the rest.  Looking forward to it!
I'll also be doing one day for the Coronation Travel tour.

Friday, 9 November 2012

RIP Bill

I've just learnt the sad news that Bill Tarmey has passed away.  Not only did Bill play a wonderful Coronation St character in Jack Duckworth but more importantly, he was a wonderful man with a heart of gold who gave freely of his time for numerous charities and was always great fun even in recent years when his health was so poor.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Some updates on Corrie stars

Here's a little round-up of news:

It was very sad to hear of the death of Goffrey Hughes recently.  He played Hilda's lodger Eddie to perfection.  A sad loss.

Sarah Lancashire (Raquel) is teamed up with Anne Reid (Val Barlow) and Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy) in the firthcoming BBC1 drama Last Tango in Halifax.  Written by ex-Corrie writer Sally Wainwright it was filmed in and around the Pennines earlier this year.

Vicky Entwistle (Janice) will be taking to the West End stage in the new year - in a long-running musical. 

Julie Goodyear (Bet) will be taking part in the controversial series Celebrity Big Brother which starts on Channel 5 this Wednesday.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

World of Corrie - Day 7

Saturday 4 August


It was all aboard our coach for the last time as we headed up the motorway to Gretna Green where we enjoyed some shopping and Scottish entertainments .. plus a very special wedding. Then we made for Glasgow where we left our group at their next hotel and handed them over to the new guide and driver for the rest of their trip.

That's it for another year - it may even be my last year as guide.  We'll see.


World of Coronation Street - Day 6

Friday 3 August


First stop today was Worsley and we saw where Ken was led astray by Martha and her canal boat. A lovely little spot! Then we made our way to Bury where we saw the ‘prison’ John Stape was in plus the railway where Roy and Hayley’s wedding trip was filmed (Thomas the Tank Engine was in the station!). We had free time to explore the bustling market with its local specialities like Black Pudding and tripe before taking a scenic route back through Salford (and seeing where Tony Warren lived) and into Manchester.

There was a bit of free time before we met up at the lovely Midland Hotel for a gala dinner with guest Debbie Rush who plays Anna Windass.  There were lots of surprises too - including a special DVD to watch, gifts and prizes!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

World of Corrie - Day 5

Thursday 2 August


We had a wonderful surprise guest at breakfast this morning when actress Jennie McAlpine (Fiz) called in to sign photos and answer questions. At 10am we set off to Prestwich and a visit to a location which is always popular – the church where they film many of Corrie’s weddings, funerals and baptisms. From here it was north to Middleton where we took in the brewery which used to double as Newton and Ridleys and then to the town hall where Raquel and Curly married. From here we called in to the town of Oldham where many of the cast started their careers in theatre and we had some time to take in the shops, market and cafes.

Then we called for afternoon tea at the lovely Daisy Nook Garden Centre where they had a table full of British treats to take home.

On the way back into the city we stopped in the Ancoats district, where Vi Carson hailed from, to see some wonderful terraced street with some interesting history to them.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

World of Coronation Street Tour - Day 4

Wednesday 1 August


It was a 9.30am start following a hearty breakfast then we set off for Merseyside. En route we learnt lots of intriguing facts and figures about Corrie before arriving at Port Sunlight. The houses are all built in different styles and there’s a lovely art gallery there too so it made for an interesting, and photogenic, stop. We then drove under the River Mersey (without getting wet) to the lovely Albert Dock where we had free time where there were plenty of options to choose from such as boat trips, art galleries and so on.

From here we drove through the suburbs calling at a few places associated with The Beatles including Strawberry Field and the grave of Eleanor Rigby. Then it was off to Speke Hall, a stunning Tudor manor house on the banks of the river. After a couple of hours we made our way back to Manchester for fish and chips.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

World of coronation St Tour - Day 3

Tuesday 31 July


Corrie’s creator Tony Warren was from Salford and when the show began the designer took to the streets of Manchester’s neighbouring city for inspiration. This morning we crossed into Salford to take a look at those streets calling at the park used as the Red Rec, seeing the famous rooftop views which appeared in the original opening titles, passing the church used for the first on-screen wedding, passing Audrey’s house, the spot Rosie was born in, where Tony Gordon escaped from the ambulance etc. We had free time at Salford Quays where the new outdoor studios are currently being constructed then we made a quick stop at Weatherfield’s community centre before heading to the location of locations – the studios.  As we arrived Izzy was crossing the road ahead of the coach!

We had a full, exclusive tour of the indoor and outdoor locations and bumped into Ken, Lloyd, Owen, Brian, Rita, Gary and Tina who were all charming.

Tonight we had a free evening to reflect on a wonderful day.

World of Coronation St Tour - Day 2

Monday 30 July


And of we go. When working out the itinerary I try and avoid starts which are too early – I mean, people are on holiday! This was a 10am one and this morning is a chance to learn a little about Manchester and see the city. I always start with a drive through the centre pointing out some Corrie locations – Liz McDonald’s pub, where Alf and Audrey married, the pub Liz dawn used to own, the roof John Stape fell from and so on. Then we pass Granada Studios and I talk about its history, show where the very first outdoor street set used to be and where the current one is. We then get off the coach for a 40 minute walk around the historic Castlefield area with its old industrial buildings, criss-cross of railway and tram bridges and its canals. Here you have Manchester’s story – plus where Tony Gordon tried to kill Roy Cropper, where Les contemplated suicide, where Zoe took the Mallet’s baby, where Danny said goodbye to Jamie and so on. Then it’s all aboard the coach for a drive past the Town Hall, China Town, the Cathedral and so on. We then head north to see the Commonwealth Games Stadium, now home to Manchester City, and Ryecroft Hall where a number of Corrie weddings – from Rita and Dennis to Gail and Joe have taken place.

Next stop was the canal basin where Richard Hillman tried to kill the Platts and where later David drove his car into the water to try and stop Sarah and Jason’s wedding. A busy morning huh?

The we had some free time in Ashton under Lyne town centre to take in the shops and market and enjoy a bite of lunch.

We rounded off our tour with a drive through the lovely Saddleworth villages, a set of villages which have provided the backdrop to number of films including Brassed Off, Yanks and have even appeared in Corrie – remember The Sage of Saddleworth, Victor Pendlebury?

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours to put our feet up before we moved next door to one of the oldest pubs in the city. Dating back to the early 1800s the Briton’s Protection hosted a lovely buffet meal and we were joined by a very special surprise guest – the lovely Julie Hesmondhalgh who plays Hayley. She spent the evening with us posing for pictures and answering questions.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Kemptville Travel Corrie holiday - Day One

Sunday 29 July


Rob and I went to meet our guests at Manchester Airport – a couple have made their own way to Manchester as they’ve already started their holiday in Britain.

We’ve been having some warm and sunny weather in the past few days, which is only fair as it seems to have rained every day since March – let’s see if our group can keep that going.  Today is sunshine and showers.

Anyway, once we’d checked that our group were indeed the Canadian Olympic Coronation Street Team we set off for Manchester city centre and our team hotel. It’s always important to check, when you’re on this kind of holiday, that your hotel is central. I’ve seen groups put on out-of-town industrial estate hotels where, when you have free time, there’s nothing to do outside the hotel itself. Our hotel is a good one and you can be into the main shopping streets in minutes, there are some lovely city walks, the theatre is a couple of streets away and there are lots of pubs and restaurants around for those free evenings.

I never like to give too much information on the coach – everyone’s tired and you can’t absorb too much so we hand out a special edition of the Weatherfield Gazette with a full itinerary and leave it at that for now.

A few hours later, after everyone’s settled in and unpacked, we meet for a sherry (the Spanish drink is Emily Bishop’s favourite tipple of course!) and a light meal. It gives me chance to say hello and start to get to know the guests – I like to know which characters people love – and loathe (I always hope the choices chime with the actors I’ve booked to meet the group later in the week) and whether it’s people’s first visit to the UK and so on. Then it’s off to bed.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Angie Freeman's back

Actress/writer Debbie McAndrew, who used to play Curly's fashionista girlfriend Angie Freeman, has written 'Losing The Plot', a comedy play with music which is set on a allotment.  I'm pleased to say that we're hosting a performance at Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Greater Manchester, on 25 September.  Tickets cost just £10 and include a drink and nibbles.  Call in at the centre (http://www.daisynook.com/ has maps) or give them a call for tickets.

Tis the season to be Corrie

Just one of the locations we'll get to see. 
Picture: ITV
It's about now that I begin checking out coach parking and roadworks in preparation for my tour guiding duties for visiting Corrie fans.  It takes quite a bit of planning - questions such as: Can the coach turn around in a cul-de-sac or will we get a view of the sea from a particular road or just where we can stop to use the loos all need thinking about.  I tend to use Google Maps to see what the views are and I try and visit - though it's not always possible - as many places as possible before time.

Anyway, the big one - the Kemptville Travel trip - is almost upon us so I'm working away on the routes and my notes.  I'll try and post a blog during it but here's the basic itinerary:
Sunday 29 July: The group arrive at Manchester Airport where I, and my trusty driver Rob, meet them for the transfer to a Manchester city centre hotel.  In the evening we meet for a sherry (Emily's favourite tipple!) and a light meal.
Monday 30 July: We take a drive around the city centre and past Granada studios so I can talk about its history.  We then do a little walk through the canal area of Castlefield before heading into the suburbs for a couple of calls at filming locations.  There's some free shopping time before we head back to the hotel for a rest before we enjoy a buffet dinner at an historic pub - with a surprise special guest (I know who but I'm not telling!)
Tuesday 31 July: We visit the Red Rec followed by some more Corrie locations then have a bit of waterside free time then it's off to the studios to visit the Coronation St sets.  This takes a couple of hours then we have free time to enjoy the city's nightlife.
Wednesday 1 August: It's off to Merseyside for a quick visit to the lovely Port Sunlight, some free time in Liverpool and then we call at the beautiful, and very old, Speke Hall before dinner.
Thursday 2 August: Again, another round of Corrie locations, free time in one of Manchester's towns and afternoon tea.  The evening is free.
Friday 3 August: More locations, a visit to a wonderful Market and then a break before another glitzy dinner with a mystery guest.
Saturday 4 August: Rob and I escort the group to Glasgow via Gretna Green - and then we hand them over to the Scottish team.
This is my last year with the Kemptville group after 13 years - so let's hope it all goes well.

I also have a day of locations for Elite Travel of Sale just two days before Kemptville arrive and then I have the Coronation Travel group in October.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fiz gets some gardening know-how

As Weatherfield goes all green with the Weatherfield in Bloom competition - I'm thrilled to have the chance to show Jennie McAlpine (Fiz) around the lovely Daisy Nook Garden Centre in Failsworth, Greater Manchester next Sunday (May 20th).  She'll be there meeting shoppers between approx. 1.30pm and 3.30pm.  Do come along and say hello!
http://www.daisynook.com/

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Locations Tours

I'm acting as guide on two upcoming locations tours for Elite Coaches (http://www.elitecoachessalemoor.co.uk/):
23 May: Visiting Portland Basin, Saddleworth, Marsden and Holmfirth - including locations used in Corrie, Where the Heart Is, Last of the Summer Wine.
27 July: Visiting locations used during filming on Corrie.
Both tours are bookable via Elite Coaches only - and include visits to the delightful Daisy Nook Garden Centre.

If you live in Yorkshire you'll find the Corrie tours bookable via Eddie Brown Coaches for Oct 3 and 4.


You should note that none of these tours enter Granada Studios.

Weatherfield for Rent

Plans for the Granada Studios site have now been unveiled - they'll become a mix of apartments, shops and restaurants.  We've all been wondering what would happen to Coronation Street itself - and now we know.  It's up for rent!
We'll have to see who wins the bidding race to turn the street into a new tourist attraction.

A Magical Day

I got to visit the new Warner Brothers' attraction at Watford on Thursday.  It's all centred on Harry Potter and includes the chance to visit many of the sets used in the films.  It's very well done and largely self-guided so you can go at your own pace.  It took us about 4 hours to see it all.
One of the famous sets.  Picture: Copyright M Llewellin

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Time to say goodbye

Manchester - well worth a visit!
Picture: Shutterstock
Today I conducted my last walking tour.  I've offered them for the past couple of years and have had the great pleasure of showing hundreds of Canadians, New Zealanders, Irish, British and Australian fans around Manchester pointing out many of the Corrie links to the city centre and to Salford.  I want to thank every one of you - and also all the Corrie cast members we've bumped into along the way - each one has spent a few minutes chatting with my guests.

Increasing non-Corrie business committments mean that I simply no longer have the time to devote to the tours - so I'm putting away my Weatherfield Recorder for good.

This year will also be my last as guide for the Kemptville Travel tour from Canada - again, I've had a very happy dozen years working with them and I thank them and all the people I've met during those years.

The only tours I'll be doing from now on are one day coach ones - but only every so often and I'll post details as and when I get them on this blog.

New Corrie Studios going up!

The new Corrie studio block.  Picture copyright: M Llewellin
Yes, work continues apace at the site of the new Corrie studios.  This morning I got the chance to take a closer look as the steelwork for the main studio and office block is going up.
In the main MediaCity area, where the famous Blue Peter garden is situated, there are signs now appearing directing visitors towards the Coronation Street set - not that visitors will be admitted of course, or indeed, catch a glimpse of the street set which will be hidden by the studio block.

It's quite ironic that the studios should move to this site.  When Granada TV was looking for its first home, back in the 50s, the owners chose a site near here.  But as the car was taking Mr Bernstein back to the station in Manchester they passed an ampty site in Quay Street and he decided that was an even better locations for his studios.

The new signage.  Picture copyright: M Llewellin


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Daisy Nook

If you've been wondering why there've been no posts for a while it's because I've bought a share of a local business which has been taking up quite a bit of my time.

Daisy Nook Garden Centre is the business and it's situated on the border of Oldham and Tameside boroughs in Greater Manchester, right next to the M60.  We've got some great plans for redevelopment throughout 2012, which is the company's 40th birthday, and we look forward to welcoming you there!

http://www.daisynook.com/

New Studios

The view from the BBC copyright Mark Llewellin
The builders are now hard at work on the new ITV studios, which will include a brand new Corrie studio compex.  This (left) is the view from the bridge crossing the Manchester Ship Canal of the site.  Before long the back of the Corrie terraces will be facing us from here, although passers-by won't see much from the outside.









Next to the site is the Imperial War Museum of the North where they have a viewing tower.  If you visit Salford go and have a look (it's £1.20 to go to the top).  The picture (below) was taken from there this week and you can see them marking out the line of the pavement and houses.  The viaduct will be at the bottom of the picture eventually with the health centre at the top.

The view from the Imperial War Museum 
Copyright: Mark Llewellin


Corrie tours this year

You might be interested in the following:

Wed 14 March - I'll be looking after a tour by Elite Coaches of Sale, Manchester, which will be visiting several Corrie locations.  If you want to join us - you can google them, they still have seats available.

Sun 29 April - I'll be showing a group from Canada around some Corrie locations.  It's part of a great UK holiday run by coronationtravel.com

Mon 11 June - I'm conducting a tour of Corrie locations as part of a visit to Liverpool by the Carribean Princess cruise ship.  If you want further details drop me an email and I'll put you in touch with the tour operator.

Fri 27 July: The annual World of Coronation Street tour arrives from Canada.    You'll get details from kemptvilletravel.com

Last year I offered walking tours of Manchester city centre which include the full Corrie story, a walk past the studios (not in them!) and some Corrie locations.  This year I'm unable to fit many in - but if you want to check out a date please drop me an email, but do let me know what date(s) you can make.

Oldham's bumper Christmas!

The figures are just in .... a record-breaking 6,000+ people turned out to watch the annual Oldham Christmas parade, over 8,000 came to see the town's Christmas lights switch-on and several thousand more attended the Christmas market, which ran for 16 days.

For the 14th year we provided many of the facilities including entertainers (marching bands, bears, Santa himself and much more).  I also acted as Artistic Director for the events programme.

So now it's time to get planning this year - yes, we've already had a meeting - which will be my 15th year.  It's been a great pleasure to work with an amazing team of people on the programme but I've decided that this year will be my last.  I'll miss it greatly - well, maybe not standing in the snow all day - but it's been a tough decision.  However, the time comes to stand aside and let someone else have a go.