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Coronation Street Fab for 50 Years

Article by Julie Tempest
As Coronation Street celebrates its 50th birthday, Julie Tempest looks back at her own highlights.

albert tatlock wedding
Guests at the wedding of Albert Tatlock (front fourth from left) and AlicePickins in 1969. In true Coronation Street style, the wedding did not go ahead as the vicar was delayed and Alice got cold feet.

For as long as I can remember as soon as the iconic theme tune came on the TV, the cry would go up, ‘it’s on!’ and the family would settle down to watch Coronation Street.

From those early black and white days through to the full colour HD CGI packed 50th birthday episodes, I’ve been
watching. We’re a similar age and have gone through a lot together as I’ve identified with the plights of different characters through the years.

Being from Manchester it’s always been there in the background. In childhood when wild child Lucille Hewitt caught my attention. As a teenager watching the antics of Gail Potter and Suzie Birchall – and fancying Ray Langton. And in my twenties when the Deirdre/Ken/Mike love triangle gripped the nation and the crowd cheered at the Manchester United v Arsenal league cup semi-final when the scoreboard flashed up ‘Deirdre and Ken United Again’.

Part of the reason the Street (we never referred to it as Corrie – that seems to be a recent development) has been ever present is thanks to my dad who back in the early 1960s met a woman called Margaret Morris on a writing-for-television course. Though he was a jacquard designer by profession, he’d always been interested in writing and supplied many newspapers with scooter runs to explore the North West and his home county of Yorkshire.

No-one can remember how or why he ended up on that course but Margaret Morris was the casting director for Coronation Street.
And that’s how I ended up visiting the Street’s studios at Granada.

Ena Sharples, actress Violet Carson, was utterly charming

I only have a black and white recollection of that visit, I’d only have been about four but family history has it I was mad keen to meet Lucille Hewitt and complained loudly that ‘the wrong one keeps talking to me’. The ‘wrong one’ being battleaxe Ena Sharples, actress Violet Carson, who was utterly charming.

At the time the set was cramped and tiny – six little studios fitted out as the interior of the Rovers Return and different rooms of the characters’ houses.
We stood behind the camera shooting a scene in Jack and Annie Walker’s bedroom.
Jack, licensee of the Rovers, was going to the Weatherfield Licensed Victuallers Association. When he opened his wardrobe door (behind which there was another camera) he found his suit was moth-eaten. Annie, who was sitting on the bed watching, burst into tears.

November 24 1969 saw the Street in colour for the first time. By now they’d built the first exterior set and, thanks to my inquisitive dad, we’d take visitors down Quay Street and show them the hole in the door you could peek through and see the famous cobbles.

In 1988 the new Granada Studios Tour opened which gave visitors the opportunity to walk down the cobbles of the new exterior set.
I’d met a man who shared my Street addiction and as he is an architect, we were part of a group of North West RIBA members given a special tour. And yes, even those consummate professionals were scampering around trying to work out which characters lived in which house.

Looking back at 50 years- so many memories of the Street

The problem with looking back at 50 years of the Street is there are so many memories.
One of the main ones was watching on Christmas Day 1987 as Hilda Ogden made her last appearance. My late mother-in-law Ethel wasn’t the only one who wiped away a tear as Hilda warbled ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’.
We’ve seen Gail Potter go from troubled teen to grieving widow (more than once), embraced the transsexual story of Hayley Cropper (née Patterson), been amazed at how many women Ken Barlow has attracted, and laughed at the antics of Mavis and Derek Wilton.

Killers, lovers, cheaters, liars – all life is condensed into that short street. Hugely important issues have been tackled including Toyah Battersby’s rape, Alma Sedgewick dying of cervical cancer, Mike Baldwin’s descent into Alzheimer’s, and Clare Peacock’s post-natal depression.

One particularly happy memory was the time I was shopping in Kendals (now House of Fraser) with my late mum.
Living in Manchester meant you frequently bumped into Street stars and thought nothing it it. But around the time of the Alan Bradley harassing Rita Fairclough storyline we were browsing and a familiar looking man walked by. Mum beamed at him and said hello. The man smiled back and walked on. Mum was mortified but chuckled when I told her it was actor Mark Eden (Alan Bradley).
The gripping Alan/Rita storyline culminated in the death-by-tram of the thoroughly nasty Alan Bradley in Blackpool 8 December 1989 watched by a record breaking 26.93 million viewers.

And we’re back with death-by-tram again as the Street celebrates its 50th birthday with a tram hurtling off the viaduct to bring yet more disaster to the residents of Coronation Street.

Julie Tempest

Julie Tempest is a director of architects Blue Barnacles She is also a freelance writer - follow her on twitter @stormyjoolz

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