It’s the most famous street in the country – and our girl Liz got to take a stroll along its cobbles and pull a pint in the Rovers.
It feels like a dream, like a déjà vu.
You recognise the beermats in the pub, the A-boards outside the shops, the paintings hanging on the walls.
You feel like you know the layout of the homes, the twists and turns of the ginnels and exactly where you need to go for a pint of milk, a haircut or a hotpot.
Walking along the cobbles of Coronation Street really is the most surreal of experiences.
Oh, there’s the bus stop where Roy and Hayley sat in the snow.
There’s the smoking shelter where Peter and Tina had a cheeky snog.
Here’s Owen’s construction yard, wonder if Gary’s around to put the kettle on? Or smash someone in the head with a piece of 2X4?
Fans have been waiting years for a stroll along the street, for the chance to sit on Maxine’s bench or check out the jukebox in the Rovers.
The Granada Studios Tour closed back in 1999 and ever since then, the most famous soap set in the world has been off limits.
But, for a limited time only, the Quay Street studio in the heart of Manchester is once again open to the public – before the whole thing is redeveloped and turned into a leisure and housing complex.
The show itself is now being filmed at the bigger, better, swankier MediaCityUK, with the cast and crew moving out of Quay Street on December 20 last year after more than five decades. Stars ripped off bits of wallpaper from their dressing rooms as souvenirs and even scrawled the odd bit of graffiti on the walls – and it’s little secrets like these that make the new tour so special.
You see the pigeon holes where each actor had their scripts delivered (Antony Cotton’s is labelled ‘Dame Antony Cotton’), you see the make-up chair where the men got 15 minutes and the women 30 and you see the costume stores where Jack Duckworth’s striped T-shirt lives alongside Hayley Cropper’s wedding dress. Speaking of Hayley, you even get to see her floral coffin. Gulp.
And the darker stuff doesn’t stop there. During our special sneak peek of the tour, we saw the ornament Tracy Barlow murdered Charlie Stubbs with, the police appeal sign from the tram crash that killed Molly and Ashley and the urns containing Jack and Vera’s ashes. Wah! Yes, we know it’s make believe, but it still brings a lump to our throat.
But don’t worry, there’s also plenty of the warm northern humour Corrie is known for: Deirdre Barlow’s massive specs are there, as are Hilda Ogden’s curlers and Liz McDonald’s rather fetching spiked necklace. Becky McDonald’s bright pink wedding dress and sparkly shoes are also on display.
But perhaps the main draw for fans is the entrance to Sound Stage One. This is where people can see inside numbers eight and nine, home to the Platts and the Dobbs respectively; Carla’s former flat; and the interiors of the Rovers Return and Underworld. These areas have never before been seen by the general public.
“There are plenty of surprises,” says Corrie’s art director, Gavin Lloyd-Smith. “The first of which is being in the actual Coronation Street studio, this has never been offered before.
“The artefacts on display will also give people an insight, it’s exciting to see an original wedding dress or a character’s necklace – and especially things like the weapon that was used to hit Frank Foster over the head.
“I’d say though that the most iconic and valuable items are Deirdre’s glasses. They will be the most talked about item because they always have been, if anyone does an impression of Deirdre, they always put on a rubbish pair of glasses.”
Being inside Sound Stage One, the main thing that hits us – other than the lack of ceilings – is how tiny the sets are. All are seven tenths the real size and there really isn’t that much room for the actors to manoeuvre. In fact, one of the biggest spaces is behind the bar of the Rovers, which is one of the highlights of the entire tour.
The dart board, the framed portrait of Betty, the hanging strips of crisps and nuts, the brass ‘time gentleman, please’ bell: all are more ingrained in our collective conscious than you realise – until you’re standing right there in the middle of the most famous pub in the world.
Visitors can have their pics taken behind the bar, pulling a pint of Newton and Ridley.
“Stepping into the Rovers Return will blow people away,” laughs Andy Begg, general manager of the tour. “Especially when they take time to think how many iconic scenes have been filmed there.
“I hope visitors will leave feeling that they have been touched by the magic of Coronation Street.” Speaking of magic moments, it’s the finale of the tour that really gets the heart beating.
Standing in the shell of Nick’s Bistro, one of the 36 tour guides utters the words “welcome to Coronation Street”, before flinging open the double doors for the big reveal of one of the most iconic TV sets in history.
The Kabin, Roy’s Rolls, Barlow’s Buys and Websters’ Auto Centre are all there, not to mention the homes, the pub and the number 33 bus stop into Manchester.
Guests can pose next to the letterbox outside Dev’s, sit on the bench next to Audrey’s hair salon or check out the ‘for sale’ cards outside The Kabin, where eagle-eyed fans will spot Jason Grimshaw’s phone number on a card advertising a pair of leather chaps. Don’t worry, I made a note of it for later. The ginnels, where all the good stuff goes down, and the back yard of the Rovers are also open for exploration.
The tour has been organised by ITV and Continuum Leading Attractions and tickets cost only £16.50. Already, they are selling like eccles cakes and it could very well be that the organisers end up hitting their 450,000 sell-out capacity.
One thing’s for sure, as soon as you step back out into the real world, it’s never seemed so dull.
The flat above the corner shop is empty, wonder if they’ll let us move in?
By Elizabeth Joyce
- 3.5 million pints have been pulled in the Rovers
- Wardrobe staff buy Ken Barlow’s socks from M&S and Liz McDonald’s outfits from the local market
- It takes a total of 280 people to bring Corrie to our screens every week
- There are 11,100 cobbles on the street
- The Platt house is the only one with a garage
- Mike Baldwin sacked a total of 17 people when he was the boss of Underworld
- Roy’s Rolls fries 16,600 eggs a year
- The most-watched episode was Hilda Ogden’s farewell in 1987 with 26.6 million viewers
- Cast and crew get through 600 cups of tea and 600 cups of coffee a week
- The beer in the Rovers is actually very weak, sugary shandy, while the G&Ts are water with a splash of lime juice
- Liz McDonald gets through four lipglosses a month and Michelle Connor two eyeliners
- Roy’s famous shopping bag actually belonged to actor David Neilson’s mum
- The factory has been Elliston’s Raincoat Factory, Elliston’s PVC Factory, Baldwin’s Casuals and, finally, Underworld
- The most popular dish in Roy’s Rolls is sausage, bacon, egg and beans
- The Rovers sells 12 hotpots a day
Coronation Street: The Tour will run until October 4, visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk/coronationstreet
Walk down the famous cobbles with Star Extra Travel. Special two-day break to the former Coronation Street set. Telephone 01902 319999 for a brochure or go to www.expressandstar.com/starextratravel