Sunday, 30 August 2015

Waving goodbye to Weatherfield

Thanks to everyone who has emailed about my ending my stint as a tour guide to the various Corrie locations.  I was asked last week to do a radio interview on the subject and as the station sent me a transcript I thought I'd share.

A regular guest on this show talking all things Corrie down the years has been Mark Llewellin. But, that's all coming to end.  Explain!

For the past 15-20 years I've looked after various groups when they came to Manchester from places like Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia and have taken them round various Coronation Street filming locations - and sometimes into the studios themselves.

Not the studios which are open right now for the tours - the actual ones.

That's right.  Of course it used to be the ones on Quays Street - but yes, down to the Salford Quays ones to.  Not all the groups - but some.

So, these locations - such as where?

Corrie has been on air for 55 years this December and down the years they've always filmed on location.  So, you know, for weddings, court scenes, taxis going into canals ... many of the classic stuff has been shot around Manchester.  Then there's the famous Red Rec, the allotments, Audrey's house and so forth.  I've put together themed days for lots of groups and coach companies and shared with them stories of how the show is filmed and put together as we've visited many of these places.

You've been to Canada too.

Yes, I used to go to the British Isles Show in Toronto, which they have each year, to talk Corrie.  I've also been to Nova Scotia - and to New Zealand. 

But this was in addition to lots of other jobs you've had.

That's right.  I was Director of marketing at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre then  I had my own events business and now I am part owner of a garden centre here in Manchester.

Which has a fab Corrie exhibition.

Yes.  When I started doing the tours there were only so many places you could go to as a fan.  And of course everyone wanted to buy a Coronation Street souvenir to take home. There was nothing in those days.  I used to trawl Ebay and turn up with a suitcase of things -a sort of mobile shop.  Anyway, when I bought into the garden centre I cleared out my attic of Corrie props and costumes and we put together an unofficial exhibition and we started stocking the official Corrie merchandise so fans had somewhere to come.  The tours has a shop now but that's due to close in December.

Now, how did all this start?

I was working at the Coliseum where lots of Corrie actors began their careers and someone rang up and asked if they could bring a  group of Canadian Corrie fans along.  I offered to give them a tour and as it happened we had some of the cast rehearsing for a play so they agreed to say hello.  The following year I had a similar call but this time they said the guide looking after the group for the week was ill and would I be interested in taking over.  I agreed and the rest is history. 

But you're giving it all up?

I know.  It's been a tough decision really.  I started cutting back a bit - I also go to groups giving talks on Corrie - last year and then this year I thought the time had come to end the tours completely.  I have so many other things on the go and I cut back to doing a day or two only with each group so I find myself go round and round the same places.  I will miss it but -

So are you going out with a bang?  Driving the coach into the canal maybe?

I hope not.  I have a Canadian group for two days in September and another group  in October.  That's quite nice because a couple on it are getting married when they get home.  I've managed to arrange a quick blessing in the location where Corrie film all the registry office weddings.  Mind you, Rita and Dennis, Gail and Joe, Becky and Steve, and Karl and Stella all married there and it didn't work out too well!

What will you miss most?

You have a load of fans who've saved up to come and visit - sometimes on their first overseas trip - this mythical land of Weatherfield.  I've always tried to get it right and it's been important to me that we do the tour in the correct way.  I hope that continues.  I'll miss seeing their faces when they visit the locations and the studios.

And will the exhibition at Daisy Nook Garden Centre continue?

we're just debating that.  It's been open a couple of years now so it's probably time to consider whether it closes in the new year.  We'll have to see.  I'm still doing the odd talk on Corrie so I'll keep my hand in but - well, we'll see.


Mark with John and Fiz Stape opening the exhibition at Daisy Nook.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Oh yes they are!

Here is a list of some of Corrie stars - past and present - appearing in pantomime this season:

NIGEL HAVERS - Bath - Jack and the Beanstalk
BRADLEY WALSH - Birmingham - Cinderella
SHERRIE HEWSON - Leicester - Snow White
SALLY LINDSAY - Liverpool - Dick Whittington
ERIC POTTS - Liverpool - Dick Whittington
OLIVER MELLOR - Middleton - Peter Pan
VICKY ENTWISTLE - New Brighton - Sleeping Beauty
SCOTT WRIGHT - Southport - Aladdin
WENDI PETERS - Stevenage - Sleeping Beauty
TERENCE MAYNARD - Sunderland - Aladdin

Monday, 24 August 2015

A glimpse of the Salford Studios

Hot on the heels of my visit to the old studios (last posting) I took some friends for a glimpse of the current ones (I'm trying to stop calling them the 'new' ones).  They are down at Salford Quays in case you didn't know.  But please don't call them the 'Salford Studios' (as I have done in the heading) because they are actually in Trafford not Salford.  I know! I know!  Confusing, isn't it?

Above is a picture of the Imperial War Museum of the North (also in Trafford as the canal is the boundary between the boroughs) which has a lift going up into the roof.  Take that (it's currently about 60p for seniors and £1.20 for everyone else) and you'll get a view down onto the new, sorry - current - Corrie set.

The view from the top

Slightly zoomed, you will make out the warehouse behind the Medical Centre on the Lot.

The nearest tram stop is Media City then walk through the BBC (they have Doctor Who's Tardis, Daleks, a chair from The Voice and a mocked up Rovers Return frontage in reception), across the bridge and there you are!

Looking back at the museum
The view from the top towards Salford

Back to Quay Street

I've been invited to go back to the old Corrie studios on Quay St for a last look in December.  I haven't been since just before the Corrie team moved to Salford and I fully expected to have a tear in my eye in December - I was a frequent visitor to Quay Street for over a decade and have many happy memories of the people who worked there, many long shuffled off this mortal coil.  Well, last week I got the chance to go back early and to take a pair of lovely friends, and devoted Weatherfield fans, on a tour.  They, naturally, loved it - but I found it a little bittersweet.

Fans explore the Lot

Looking towards where the original Outdoor Lot stood, used from 1968-82.  The weeds are taking over.

It was, for me, sad to see the wallpaper hanging off the walls of dressing room corridor and the Green Room looking so unloved (not that it was ever that loved by its users).  All the creativity had gone.  It was all too quiet.

View from the Kebab Shop

The painted plastic brick walls are now fading, cracks appearing in the old sets and the plaster falling off here and there.  After two years of lack of maintenance (at least to the standard required for filming) it's looking tatty around the edges.  Don't get me wrong - if you've not been before, make sure you visit before the end of the year when the place closes to visitors and gets ready to be demolished.  But should it be saved?  I think not.  It's beyond that already - like a decommissioned ship rusting in dock.

No more filming here.


Further Farewells

Hot on the heels of my last but one post - well, a few weeks later ..
I can now announce that this year's Coronation Travel Corrie trip will also be my last.
It's been great fun but twenty years on I'm ready to stop paying my regular visits to the Red Rec etc etc.

Leading a trip to Weatherfield Community Centre with a film crew in tow.


Up high on the London Eye

Crossing the Thames by cable car
Tower Bridge

Mind The Gap on the Tube

The fake houses on Leinster Terrace

Not so long ago I had a weekend in London.  I lived in the capital for several years and loved it - but I rarely get to go back these days.  I quite enjoyed it as did my teenage niece and nephew.  We got out and about too visiting a few attractions - Bank of England Museum (boring!), Sherlock Holmes' house (not bad but long, long queues), the London Eye (great no matter how many times you've been - but the queues and shorter in the evening), the Cable Car from Greenwich (good fun) and the river boat (take the commuter service rather than the tourist one unless you want a full commentary.  It's way cheaper).
We also took in two shows - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wicked - and we love both.  Another tip - if you don't mind which show you get to see go along to the discounted ticket booth in Leicester Square  (the TKT one) where you'll get cheaper tickets for almost every show going.
We used the buses and tubes and made use of our daily Travelcard (the best value) which also gave us a discount on our boat trip and on the cable car.
A great time was had by all!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Farewell Weatherfield!

It's time to hang up my hairnet, put the flying ducks away - to pack up me pigeons.

'What on earth's he on about?' I hear you ask.

Well, after more years than I care to - or can - remember, I'm waving a fond farewell to the annual Kemptville Travel Coronation Street Tour.  In recent years I scaled back my involvement from the full 10 to just 2 days but after this year I won't be guiding any days at all.  I'm pleased to be joining the group in September for two days of Corrie locations as my swan song.

It's been a great honour to share production tales and hidden locations with so many wonderful Canadian fans down the years and I'm sure I will miss it. 

I'm just giving up the Kemptville Travel tour and the Weatherfield Walking Tours at the moment.  Anything I've agreed to do already in 2016 I will of course honour but then that will be the end of my Weatherfield duties after about 20 years.