"There's A Gift Shop In The Medical Centre, No Wonder They All Keep Dying" – Northern Lights Visits Coronation Street
I have just come back from Manchester. It wasn’t for work, or for Parklife Festival. I was actually there to go on a guided tour of the old set of Coronation Street. Yes, you read that right, I have been to Coronation Street. Although this was a random surprise from my parents, I was quite excited to see this. As a 25-year-old straight man – I am not ashamed to say I do actually watch Corrie when I can and have done as long as I can remember. The set tour itself was a surreal experience to say the least.
Coronation Street, as a TV production, has moved to Media City in Salford. This is also home to a lot of big shows by ITV and BBC. The original set used since the first episode in 1960, situated at Granada TV’s old studios, still stands.
The whole experience feels like we have been given an exclusive behind the scenes experience for an actual TV production – we get a backstage pass each (us and 1,000s of others there on the day). As someone who has worked on various TV programmes as a runner I can assure you working on a set isn’t this organised. Yet, the tour staff certainly look the part wearing cargo shorts and a walkie talkie earpiece. I even spotted a ‘filming in progress’ sign outside to give it that ‘authentic’ film set feel.
The first part of our tour is the interior studios, starting with the green room. We see such fascinating sites like Dame Anthony Cotton’s pigeon hole and the kettle they made their brews with. We move on to the ‘Corrie-dor’ as our tour guide says (comedy genius) where we can peer in to actor’s dressing rooms. This leads to the costume and make up room. Although it is good to see the iconic outfits up close the illusion is shattered when our tour guide tells us they are mainly bought on eBay or from trendy shops. Hayley’s famous red anorak is nowhere to be seen though.
We are then greeted with familiar living rooms of current characters as well as coffins and props from through the years, and then sit down in the Rovers Return (which our guide hilariously announces as ‘The Queen Vic’). A bit of a botch-job of a photo opportunity leaves a lot of us wondering ‘is this it?’ but then we are let loose on the street itself.
There has been over fifty years of storylines on these cobbles and who would have thought it all happened behind a Manchester back-street. It feels slightly surreal yet familiar to actually be walking down a fictional street I have seen on TV since I was child. It’s almost as if I have the magic ticket from the Arnie movie ‘Last Action Hero’ but with less action, of course. One of if the great questions of life is finally answered on my visit, which is ‘What is at the end of the road?’ or ‘Is that another street back there?’ Not to shatter any illusions – but that’s actually a really big backdrop. The other side is big wooden doors to a brewery, which is handy next to a pub. And yes: that bus stop actually has a time table. I was waiting there a while though. The best thing is the awkward ‘selfie opportunity’ outside the Rovers Return, which can be chaos when your relatives don’t know how to use you phone’s camera. [Editor’s notes: we think Neale’s confusing “a selfie” with “a picture” here].
The strangest thing about the street was that there is a gift shop in what is supposed to be the medical centre, no wonder they all keep dying. To top it off there is a bunch of flowers stuck to Owen’s building yard with a photo of Michelle Keegan (who plays Tina) underneath. I hope this was part of the set, and not from a fan who is upset she only got 2nd place in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women 2014.
The street is open until 10.30pm, and if this was a functioning street with real businesses I wouldn’t mind having a pint in the Rovers, a bacon sarnie from Roy’s or picking up the Weatherfield Gazette from Dev’s. In all this was good day out, we got the behind the scenes feel without actually being behind the scenes. This attraction is only really enjoyable if you are into the TV show, but that is the target audience, looking at how busy it was they could open up the set all year around in Beamish-style open-air museum way. I’d recommend this to treat your parents or relatives to day out in Manchester. Certainly put a smile on my face.