Thursday 19 October 2023

1980: Elsie Tanner Meets Meg Richardson...

ITV was 25 years old in 1980, and a meeting of soap legends took place at the celebratory event. Noele Gordon, Mrs Meg Richardson (or Mortimer) of the Crossroads Motel, met Pat Phoenix, Mrs Elsie Tanner of No 11 Coronation Street.

Noele Gordon said: 'Our paths just never crossed, but we did meet at the ITV 25th anniversary celebrations and I thought she was smashing. We got on great.'

Monday 3 April 2023

Coronation Street 1978: The Barlow Twins: RETCON! Twins Lose Two Years of their Lives!

We recently had an email here asking us about our assertion that a Corrie retcon occurred over the Barlow twins' age in 1978. The writer had read in a 50th Anniversary Book that the retcon trend set in in the 'cynical 1980s'.

Ooh, aye, luvvie - the cynical 1980s!

Well, this was in the totally non-cynical (giggle) 1970s. It was 1978. 

The Barlow twins' age retconning was actually put right in the 1980s - in 1986, when they celebrated their twenty-first birthday.

From the Sunday Mirror, December 10, 1978:

WHOOPS! The great minds who think up Coronation Street story-lines for Granada TV have been caught out - by Sunday Mirror readers.

Two of them have spotted a flaw in the otherwise scrupulously worked-out plot of the top-rated serial.

The flaw came to light after we invited readers last Sunday to send in their Street questions.

Both Mrs JE Godwin, of South Ockendon, Essex, and Mrs R Rowland of Wardley, Swinton, Lancs, asked this question:

Why does Granada TV insist that the Barlow twins, Peter and Susan, are almost fifteen when they were born on April 5th, 1965?

Both ladies remember the date well because Mrs Godwin had twin boys and Mrs Rowland a daughter around the same time.

Granada TV were happy to own up to a bit of "fiddling".

Planners changed the age of the twins to suit a story-line involving Peter Barlow and his O Levels.

However, they do hope to correct the situation in future.

As we mentioned, this turned out to be 1986. When Susan Barlow visited the Street in 1981, she seemed set to apply for a temporary job in a wine bar in London. She was too young, going by the 1965 birth year, so the 'tweaking' obviously remained until the twins' 21st birthday of 1986.

We actually knew a woman back then who wrote to Granada TV on the subject. The letter was replied to by the Street's archivist, Eric Rosser, who stated very firmly that he had voted against the "fiddling" - or retconning as we call it today.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

The Coronation Street Corner Shop: Side Door?

Opening the morning post this morning, whilst enjoying a lovely pot of English breakfast tea and toast with bramble jelly, one was delighted to discover that Joanie is installing an 'outdoor ambiance' in Derby. Of course, she has always been a leader in social trends in her neighbourhood. 

There was also a recent, rather vulgar, innovation apparently called an 'email' from 'Rokey'. One much prefers Vellum Wove:

You write that the side door at the corner shop always led to the flat, and that it seemed to have dual entrances from the main premises and from the side door stairs. But I recently read that before Alf Roberts modernised the shop in 1985 the side door led into the living quarters. Who is right?

Um, with the changing architecture of the Street over the years, who knows? But we don't recall anybody entering the back room via a side door, and nor was there any evidence of such a door in a rare appearance of that side of the back room during the Hopkins family's time at the shop in the mid-1970s.

Lovely Kathy Jones as Trish Hopkins gets the worst of it from Granny in the back room of the Corner Shop. We were sorry when the character was dispatched as we really liked her - Trisha was a far more cynical '70s girl than our wonderful dizzy Gail. We wouldn't have swapped Gail's time with the mega cynical Suzie Birchall for anything. But we still think Trisha could have been given another niche in the Street. Anyway, back to the subject in hand: no side door, but the side window is present.

We took the vexing question of the Corner Shop side door to Ida Clough when she popped into the shop for the morning barm cake order from the factory, and she said: 'Three 'am, two cheese 'n' a corned beef.'

Tuesday 10 August 2021

The New Houses, Kabin, Salon, Garage And Factory - Completed In 1989

In Coronation Street, it seemed that the building of the new side of the street began in September 1989 and most of the building work was completed before the end of the decade. We've been exploring that story-line recently, but Ian has recently studied all the relevant episodes and has written to tell us that, in reality, all the major building work on that side of the street began and ended in 1989.

I now have all the episodes from August 1989 to January 1990 and have been able to study the building of the new houses, the story-line time frame and the real time frame, bearing in mind that the show was recorded AT LEAST three to four weeks in advance. I've read your stuff on here, and would like to add my findings - made whilst studying the episodes concerned this week.

On-screen, early December 1989 (recorded October/November): a teaser glimpse of what is now Audrey's salon.

On-screen, January 1990 - recorded November/December 1989 - Eddie Ramsden shins down a ladder - with what would become Gail and Martin's home in the background.

It was a great story because here was the Street undergoing immense change. New Exec Producer David Liddiment had decided to update the show in the summer of 1989 and had travelled around real Coronation Street terrace disticts where he saw modern houses and industrial units springing up beside the old houses. This seemed perfect for Coronation Street, with the show about to go three times a week, allowing much more story-line potential. In the story, the factory and community centre frontages were demolished in September 1989 (in reality, August 1989). That side of the Street was then boarded off and the production team teased us with very occasional glimpses of the new side of the Street going up.

In an episode broadcast on 1 December 1989 (recorded November) we were treated to an aerial view of the site with work in progress. In an episode transmitted on 11 December 1989 (recorded November), we glimpsed the nearly completed salon. In an episode broadcast on 1 January 1990 (recorded November or December 1989) we saw Steve McDonald drive a JCB from what is now the yard in front of the factory unit and garage into the Corner Shop window - and glimpsed part of the frontage of what is now Gail's house. In an episode broadcast on 8 January 1990 (recorded December 1989), Ken Barlow drove up the Street to visit Deirdre and we glimpsed the completed Kabin, waiting to have its windows put in (I think one was already there).

On-screen, January 1990 - recorded November/December 1989 - all over bar the shouting - the new side of the street.

The evidence points to the new side of the Street being built in reality from August to December 1989. In January 1990, teaser shots of the completed houses appeared in various magazines (in the story-line the finishing touches were being made) and in February 1990 Des and Steph Barnes moved in - the first new residents.

Thanks for that, Ian - I've received a few queries about the new houses and all now seems clear. It was a very ambitious project for the Street and I remember enjoying every moment as the girls struggled to get compensation for losing their jobs at the factory, the building site lads brawled in the Rovers, Alan Bradley used a job on the site to terrorise Rita and Tina Fowler became involved with labourer Eddie Ramsden. And I love the way we were "teased" with glimpses of what was being built.

The new side of the Street was actually fully revealed to the public via a press photograph taken on 6 January, 1990, which appeared in some newspapers the following day. The last of the paving slabs were just being put in place. There was a hint that we may not have lost Mike Baldwin as a local employer - it was revealed a new factory had been built as part of the development.

The photograph reveals some rather dinky, fancy street lamps along the new side of the Street. Some newspapers called the new houses 'yuppy' and the lamps did give things a rather 'exclusive' look. But they were quickly replaced with more bog standard street lights.

Of course, Des and Steph Barnes moved in in February but, although they had an ice cream maker, you could hardly call them yuppies. Well, I think one or two in the Street did but they weren't, not really. Phew!

A great era for the Corrie.

UPDATED 31/08/23

Monday 8 March 2021

Back To The Ogdens'...

One of my favourite photographs of the Ogdens - happy in each other's company.

Thanks to Anonymous who came up with the answer to my quiz question - the Charles and Diana 1981 wedding plate hung at the Ogdens' house.

It did! I grew up with their back room, and looking back at it, I find myself smiling at memories of the Ogdens' and similar rooms I knew.

There were quite a lot of working class living rooms like that in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. And probably well into the 1990s.

The selected glories on Hilda's sideboard changed over the years. Look at those lovely candlesticks there! Real antiques, them! And that radio - that was the one Noah listened to weather forecasts on.

Nowadays, many people go for a carefully cultivated 'shabby chic' look, and ironically horrible wallpaper, but those were the days when people accumulated treasures - like Aunt Aggie's 'antique' ducks - and mixed and matched them with other treasures - like the battered chalkware mermaid they'd won on the fair in the 1940s, those lovely old 'silver' vases of Grandma's, and that lovely plate of Charles and Diana's wedding from 1981.

In fact, like the mural, Hilda had two different such plates. The first was a head and shoulders shot of the happy couple. It was there for several years from 1981 onwards, before being replaced. Perhaps Hilda knocked it off the wall while dusting it? I wondered. But then, if I remember rightly, the second plate disappeared and the first one returned. Gawd knows what 'appened there, chuck.

'Orrible Avril Carter, seen here with Hilda and Stan in 1983, was no good. She was after Hilda's late brother's chippie. Hilda's original Charles and Diana plate is behind Avril.

Moving on to 1986, and ain't young love grand- even with taches and mullets and bulldog clips? Well, yes - as long it's decent. The second 1981 Royal Wedding plate is on the wall, and Aunt Aggie's middle duck is determinedly pursuing its downward path on the 'muriel'.

Double take - Sally Dynevor and Michael LeVell on the reproduction set of the Ogdens' living room. The 1981 Royal Wedding plate isn't the same, but it's close enough. Hilda's light switch is missing, and the picture rail is a bit high over the door, but the set captures the atmosphere of Hilda's dear old room extremely well. The photograph of Bernard Youens on the sideboard, placed there by Hilda in the storyline after Stan's death in 1984, reminds us poignantly of how much Jean Alexander appreciated Bernard's contribution to the legend of the Oggies...

... as further illustrated by this 1986 photograph of Jean. A rose had just been created and named after Hilda. Jean took Bernard's photograph from the sideboard and brought it to the table as a tribute to Bernard and Stan.

Hilda, like so many, was susceptible to a bit of 'posh' one up-manship - and when lovable conman Eddie Yeats flogged her a mural, sorry, muriel, in 1976, she thought it looked fabulous in her cramped backroom, with the same wallpaper Mrs Walker had in her bedroom on the other walls.

Oh yes, very classy.

Hilda, Eddie Yeats and Stan with the first 'muriel'. Didn't last long - thanks to that flaming Suzie Birchall and Stan. Never mind, chuck. The next one would last for nearly a decade.

The trouble was there was no overall plan in rooms like that, no attempt to coordinate, no 'style'. Or perhaps that wasn't a problem. After all, the Oggies' backroom had a lot more character than dear Sally and Kevin's revamp when they moved in. Don't get us wrong, we loved the Websters' style, but it couldn't hold a candle to the Oggies' mishmash.

And a serving hatch? Great, Stan! Never mind that it's canteen sized...

Stan and Hilda's ruby wedding in 1983. I love the outdoor snap of Hilda in the background, which stood on the sideboard for many years. She looks as daft as a brush - but happy.

The first scenic mountain mural didn't last, of course. Firstly, Suzie Birchall lobbed a brick down the chimney and turned it into a slag heap with soot smuts all over it in 1977, then, in 1978, Stan fell asleep while running a bath, the overflowing water seeped through the ceiling onto the mural, and that was it.

Enter the new cliff and sea panorama in August 1978.

A few years ago, the Corrie production team attempted to reproduce the Oggies' backroom as a tribute to actress Jean Alexander, who had just died.

And didn't they do well? Hilda's mac hung on the door, Stan's photograph, the one Hilda had framed after he died in 1984, which she kept proudly on her sideboard, was all present and correct, and a 1981 Charles and Diana Royal Wedding plate hung by the door - not the same as Hilda's, but quite close to her second plate in appearance and near enough. 

Unfortunately, in the reproduction set, there was a 1980s video recorder under the telly, and Hilda never had a VCR (a lot of the UK population didn't, 5% of households in 1980, up to around 25% in 1985) but, that aside, the whole effect was like stepping back in time and I expected Hilda to walk through the door at any moment.

And most, importantly, the mural and the ducks - one, of course, hanging crooked.

But they couldn't reproduce the mermaid. The mermaid? Good grief, yes - we used to call her 'Miss Boobies' because she was... er... without upper attire and we were not politically correct. But it all made perfect sense to Hilda to have her in front of the muriel.

Water, mermaid, ducks... yep.

I suppose such a mermaid in the reproduction set would would have been asking too much. It was ancient tat in the 1980s, so goodness knows where you'd find one nowadays.

Hilda, seen  here in 1986, disapproved of that there Sally Seddon from Arkwright Street. But Sally and the shockingly topless mermaid (behind Sally in this shot), both living under Hilda's roof, seemed happy enough. Hilda, of course, soon revised her opinion of Sally.

The repro mural was, of course, not the original - the second of two Hilda proudly displayed - which adorned the wall for nearly a decade, but it's atmosphere that counts and the reproduction set certainly has that. Where was the gorgeous scene depicted on Hilda's pride and joy - what was the location? I think I know, but I'd love to hear others' opinions.

The ducks were inappropriate, of course, against that background, but, as Hilda said, they'd kept her hand off the gas tap a number of times, winging their way across there.

And this was how things worked. We had no World Wide Web, no great knowledge of the world compared to now, and for us, the bottom of the class system heap, well, we lived in very small worlds which we made the best of.

The Oggies and Eddie Yeats - faced with the prospect of eating Little Hilda in 1979. Oh dear. That radio is a bit more up to date, isn't it? Henry VIII had one just like it.

Were we happier? I'd say no. Different times, different problems. I had some of my most miserable times long before all mod cons and I see many problems happening alongside, and some courtesy of, all mod cons, now.

Of all the houses in the Street, the Oggies' decor and facilities were probably the closest to my family's. We had no telephone - like most people in our street (less than 50% of UK households had a landline until the 1980s and mobiles did not become available here until 1985 - at a price), no colour TV, a VCR was unimaginable and, of course, no microwave or central heating. When I left home in 1983, VCRs were just beginning to move into the ascendancy (slow but sure), and my mother rented one in 1984. She was one of the first in our street. Fat lot of good that was for me!

Of course, things changed radically with the credit boom of the mid-to-late 1980s, and technology was galloping on. But Hilda was set in her ways. A bit like my gran's cousin. You may not believe me, but she had no indoor toilet or bathroom and still did her ironing with flat irons heated by the fire to the end of her days in 1987. And she had gas lamps either side of her fireplace, which the gas board safety-checked every year. She had electricity and the telly, of course, but the gas lamps came in handy whenever there was a power cut and she had several boxes of mantles on standby.

Hilda left the Street at Christmas 1987. She was finally going up in the world to housekeep for posh Doctor Lowther - but she'd have swapped that for Stan any day.

In my family, we'd started the decade with a black and white telly (the horizontal hold was 'going' and the picture was a narrow band across the screen), a record player and a radio. At the end, we had VCRs, colour TVs, microwaves, and we all had landline phones (mobiles were new and too expensive - 'yuppie toys' we called them - although Del Boy was trying to flog a few cheap 'uns off the back of a lorry). My younger cousin was getting heavily into computers.

A sad time for Hilda - and us. I loved Stan. His needs were few and simple - leisure, grub, beer, fags, his pools coupon and the odd bet on the gee gees. Nothing that exorbitant, bless him. The mermaid smiled on. Personally, I think she was a bit doolally. I wonder if Eddie Yeats found her in one of his bins?

Looking back, the Ogdens' house looks so dated. But, as I grow older, my own house is becoming an increasingly eclectic collection of 'treasures' - loaded with sentimental memories. My Adam Ant mirror hangs alongside my posh turquoise, pink and yellow 1987 clock, and my sad-eyed 60's cat picture in its cheap plastic frame and my great grandmother's flying wall swallows and her ceramic plate pictures of Great Yarmouth Model Village are in the living room. Not to mention the gonk I've had since I was seven, and my wife's grandmother's vase (broken in 1992 but stuck back together - obvious mend, but never mind...) and...

Stan and Hilda's back room had one more lease of life, just after Kevin and Sally's new-look room debuted on the telly. The old set was featured on the brand new Granada TV Tour in 1988 - complete with mural, sideboard, mermaid, ducks, serving hatch and royal wedding plate. And a life-size effigy of Hilda, with a rather accentuated nose! I wonder why?! 

Sadly, I didn't go on the tour until 1991 and it had gone. However, I did get to explore Jack and Vera's living room a year or two later. With their collection of tat - mostly from the 1950s and 1960s - their decor was very much 'THE OGDENS - THE NEXT GENERATION'.

Here's me (physog censored) in Jack and Vera's back room. Lovely, eh? Just look at that bar!

When Hilda left the Street in December 1987 she took her treasures - mermaid and ducks - with her but, sadly, had to leave the 'muriel'.

Sunday 28 February 2021

Coronation Street Quiz... Where Were Charles and Diana?


We're going to be delving into the decor of a past Corrie household in a forthcoming post. So, to start off: Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July, 1981. Sadly, we all know the outcome now. But back then it was a day of tremendous optimism and happiness for royalists - and there were huge numbers of them back in those days. The image above was proudly displayed in a Corrie sitting room from 1981 until late in the decade. But whose sitting room was it?

Thursday 12 March 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Six

Well, chuck, we've reached the final part of our little series comparing Coronation Street to its rough-template-real-life-counterpart Archie Street, which once stood in the Ordsall district of Salford. And as we stand outside Maurice Jones's posh 1989 Coronation Street development, what was on that side of Archie Street? More terraced houses, of a slightly different design, and a brick wall is the answer.

When Archie Street faced the bulldozers in 1971, Granada Television issued a press statement entitled THE BULLDOZERS FOR ENA? and Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander, our wonderful Stan and Hilda Ogden, visited the derelict street for a photo session.

The Ogdens survey the non-template side of Archie Street in 1971. Note the bay windows there had brick surrounds.

For years, it was put about - and Granada participated in this - that Archie Street had been replaced by high rise blocks, but it hadn't - simply by modern housing. St Clement's Church remained as a convenient orientation point when tracing the site. Just to confuse those not-in-the-know there's now another Archie Street in the district!

Coronation Street differs from Archie Street in that it is not real, and when I said a little while back that we should embrace some of the oddities thrown up by its architecture and changing environs over the years, I meant it. Since the Street was born almost sixty years ago, TV production has altered a very great deal. Hurriedly assembling sets back in the day led to occasional brow-creasers like Emily Bishop's back door leading into Albert Tatlock's yard on at least one occasion in the 1970s, and the cramped nature of the studio meant the frontages had to be tiny in the 1960s. So, Albert had to put up with having the Rovers loos in his house.

When the Street moved outside, a lack of chimneys and glimpses of interior scaffolding and interior grey sky were inevitable. But think about the improvement from the old studio set! It didn't solve Albert's problem though.

The old days - far too small, no chimneys and the Rovers loos are in Albert's house. "Funny old boozer this, in't it, Mrs Walker?!"

In 1982, we got to see Rosamund Street in a different light - no church opposite the street corner, as in the studio days, or high wall with gates in it - but the building which became the Graffiti Club. Once again, highly odd when viewed as reality but a major leap forward for the Street - as were chimney pots and a properly covered terraced.

Not to mention the size upgrade. Real size? No, as Jean Alexander said at the time, 'more real size.'

The 1980s.

And, in 1989, came the modern development on the community centre and factory site - bringing us the likes of '80s kids Des and Steph Barnes in February 1990.

The only thing I've ever really disliked is the strange Rosamund Street arch, which appeared at the turn of the 21st century. I've never seen anything like it in real life, but I can  imagine the production team were eager to block out the view of the Granada Studios - and having the Rosamund Street view beyond the arch was inspired.

With the latest set, we have another size upgrade and Rosamund Street is no longer a straight road. The Street's production team in 1960, unaware that the show would run and run, set an impossible task for the future: how on earth could you feature a busy main road? So, Rosamund Street became less busy, and with the opportunity to slot in more shops and a more realistic look for the latest set, I can imagine the temptation to alter the course of the road was irresistible.

Number 1 and number 3 Coronation Street. There's now room for hanging baskets outside - and the width of the halls can realistically accommodate stairs and the living room doorway inside.

I think the new Street looks a little too big in some ways - the houses more cottagey than Victorian/Edwardian urban terrace. The bay windows look positively palatial, but they make more logical sense. Again, in real life, I've never seen a street with neighbouring bay windows bolted together quite the way they are in Coronation Street. But that was born of necessity from lack of studio space back in 1960 and now the windows are at least large enough to have a properly sized room behind them.

The back of the Rovers could have been sorted out a bit better, and would there really be so many businesses in Victoria Street? I always imagined the Street nestling amongst other grotty, grey back streets off a main road, not in a funky area like that.

Two upstairs windows for the Rovers frontage instead of one makes perfect sense as the pub exterior was never big enough to accommodate the interior. The back, however, is rubbish.

But the pressure continues to produce more episodes and the new set reflects that. More stories and different settings are needed. The programme eats them up at a rapid rate.

It's all a far cry from the little girls playing outside the Corner Shop on the old studio exterior set at the start of episode one, and the days when the inspiration for the architecture became known as Coronarchie Street.

Roll end credits...

Sunday 8 March 2020

The Down-Side Of The Bill Podmore Era: The Barlow Twins Retcon, A Plastic Toy Boy And Elsie Tanner's New Grandson...

April 1965, and Coronation Street's newest arrivals, Peter and Susan Barlow, grace the cover of the TV Times. But in 1978 they were apparently born in 1964. Or perhaps even 1963.

Regular readers of my little blog (bless you both, I adore you!) know that I love the Bill Podmore era of Coronation Street. In the main. I found the show stodgy, miserable fare in the early-to-mid 1970s, but when Bill took the reins in 1976, the Street suddenly seemed to rediscover its lost youth and became so enjoyable I was glued to it.

Shake Up In The Street - there's going to be a lot more fun! proclaimed one tabloid headline. And there was. Bill Podmore's reign totally rejuvenated the Street. I have doubts the show would have lasted without him.

But even the most glittering reign has a few fake gems, and Mr Podmore's was no exception.

When was the Street's first retcon? Its first twisting of established fact to fit in with a modern storyline? I'm not talking continuity errors here - I'm talking planned, purposeful twisting of Street history to cynically shoehorn in a storyline?

1978 is the answer.

It all began when Peter Barlow came to see his father and wanted to join the Navy when he left school. Now, Peter Barlow, like me, was born in 1965, but in those episodes he was older (one stated he'd be turning fifteen in April 1979, others made him seem perhaps even older). My mother immediately noticed: 'I was pregnant with you when Val had the twins. This is a botch-up!' Matters went thoroughly public when the tabloid press got hold of the story and a friend of my mother's, another dedicated Street follower, wrote to the archivist, Eric Rosser, about it. She showed us the letter, and I remember she had ended it with the words: What would Ena say?

Mr Rosser wrote back, on a manual typewriter. Mum's friend showed us the letter and it was perhaps indicative of Mr Rosser's feelings on the subject that the middle of several o's was missing - minute holes in the paper. Was it just the quality of the paper, or had he punched the typewriter keys extra hard in his vexation, we wondered? He made it very plain that he had voted against the retcon (although we didn't call them that then).

Valerie and Ken Barlow with their twins, Peter and Susan. It all seemed so simple back in the 1960s. But in the 1970s their age would become subject to sudden inexplicable change...

This was a rare instance of the Bill Podmore era beginning trends which were unwelcome to some fans - trends which are common nowadays. The whole point of investing in a long-running saga, it seemed to me back then (and today), is that you get to know the characters and their histories. And you have contemporaries born within the span of the show as it goes on - like me and Peter and Susan Barlow, all born in 1965. If you start twisting the facts, then why bother having an archivist? The Peter Barlow storyline would have been fine a couple of years later anyway. Why spoil continuity to shoehorn it into 1978?

The age of the Barlow twins remained vague but corrupted for a few years. Susan taking Mike Baldwin up on an offer to get work in a licensed bar in 1981 is indicative of this - the plot reality should have been that she was only sixteen-years-old.

All this gave me the uneasy feeling that watching the show was a bit pointless. Would a plot I was currently enjoying be tweaked into nonsense in the future, I wondered way back in 1978?

But in 1986 sanity was restored with the Barlow twins celebrating their twenty-first birthday.

Coronation Street producer Bill Podmore with Eric Rosser, the show's archivist, in the 1980s.

In 1980, the Podmore administration did it again: showing a complete disregard for the show's history, it introduced a new grandson for Elsie Tanner called Martin Cheveski. Elsie's grandson, Paul, had been born in 1961, but we'd never heard of Martin, who was apparently a few years younger. He certainly hadn't been with his parents, Linda and Ivan, when they'd visited the Street in the late 1960s, although Paul had.

Martin didn't stay that long, and the demographic he represented, not long out of school and unemployed, was topical - although in the Street, of course, he soon found work with Len Fairclough. But it was all very strange - although not, I thought, as bad as the Barlow twins debacle.

As far as I'm aware, 1978, 1979 (Ivy Tilsley's family - but, as she was up to then a peripheral character, perhaps forgivable) and 1980 apart, the Podmore administration didn't tweak characters' ages, or create new relations for them out of thin air again.

But, in 1978, for me, the Street had committed another sin - one that was indicative of future trends, and which unashamedly went for increasing the male totty pin-up ratio, not character depth or acting skills.

This was the introduction of young Brian John Tilsley. He met Gail Potter at a party at No 11, and soon they were an 'item'. Now, of course, Ivy had once stated she hadn't been able to have children, but with the Tilsleys being introduced as Street residents in 1979, moving into No 5, this was all altered.

But doing a few retcons as a peripheral character moves to centre stage is not such a sin.

However, introducing her son as a blond-haired, unblemished body builder WAS, in my humble opinion. Back in the late 1970s, gym workouts were not the norm for working class guys. I'm sorry, but they weren't. This really came about in the 'fit for business, fit for life' mid-to-late 1980s and the narcissistic 1990s.

Vera: 'She couldn't 'ave kids yer know, well, only their Brian - and she don't like to mention 'im. I mean, can yer blame 'er?'

But actor Chris Quinten, who played Brian, was a gymnast and Brian, who didn't attend a gym and didn't even have some dumb bells at home, wasn't - and nor did he have a physically-demanding job. He was a garage mechanic. When Terry Duckworth arrived in 1983, not only was he heavier on character but his job at the abattoir would have given him the bit of muscle he had.

The Street had always had its male and female heart-throbs. Think Terry, Ray Langton and Suzie Birchall, for instance. But these characters were not OTT attractive and seemed like natural backstreet denizens.

For me, Brian did not. He seemed an obvious and rather cynical attempt to up the female/gay 'PHWOAR!' factor and I found him wholly unconvincing as a character.

Wow - fashion! Our Brian in the 1980s. He was killed off in 1989.

I don't mean to sound too 'down' on Chris Quinten, as time went on I think his acting ability improved, but he was never a Street natural.

As for the future of the Street, retcons went out of fashion in the 1980s, but returned in the 1990s. Then, a storyline I'd followed in 1983 - in which Maggie Dunlop had a son by Mike Baldwin, was retconned back a couple of years so Mike's son, Mark Redman, could attend the school Ken Barlow taught at a couple of years too early.

His own children had suffered similar age revisions, but Ken, caught up in the production team's web, was blissfully unaware of anything amiss.

Meanwhile, give or take an occasional Tyrone Dobbs, muscle hunks are all the rage when it comes to young male Street characters. But then workouts are so much more a part of everyday life now.

Oh well...

Despite my moans here, Bill Podmore's era was an absolute godsend for the Street. I hold his memory in high esteem. Nothing is ever perfect.

Shortly after Brian arrived, Steve Fisher, a lad who, as Betty Turpin said, any mother would be proud of, was dispatched to work at Mike Baldwin's London factory - and never mentioned again. A sensitive, interesting character (a bit soft though - putty in Suzie's hands), exchanging Steve for Brian seemed rather sad.

Saturday 7 March 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Five

As we cross Coronation Street to the 1989 development, let's pause for a minute and think about the inhabitants of Archie Street and Coronation Street. Any similarities? Well, sadly, the residents of Archie Street did not appear onscreen to entertain the nation twice weekly for decades, so it's hard to tell. And, judging by the comments of some of them way back then, Coronation Street was really not doing Archie Street justice at all, and they disliked the association and publicity.

But there was one similarity: Manchester United football player Eddie Colman, one of Busby's babes tragically killed in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, lived in Archie Street. David Barlow, Ken's younger brother, also had a brief professional football career.

Eddie Colman, the sporting celebrity from Archie Street, died at the age of 21.

Frank Allaun, the MP for East Salford, was sometimes regarded as Coronation Street's MP, he was tireless in his praise for the show - and Archie Street was dubbed by some 'Coronarchie Street'!

Coronation Street creator Tony Warren with Frank Allaun on a visit to Archie Street in 1961.

Anyway, back to our walk round, and standing on the side of Coronation Street redeveloped by Maurice Jones in 1989, we take a trip back in time to 1960 to look at the situation then.

In those days, this side of the street was dominated by Elliston's Raincoat Factory and a woman with a mission - Mrs Ena Sharples of the Glad Tidings Mission Hall, next door to the factory, to be precise.

Detail from a Coronation Street Christmas card produced by Granada for cast members to send to fans in 1961. This particular card was from Doreen Keogh (Concepta Riley/Hewitt). The Street has single bays, the 'tin pot' structure of the Glad Tidings Mission Hall can be seen, and part of the raincoat factory.

The Mission Hall backed on to the Street and Ena's vestry entrance was there. The raincoat factory, which switched to funky PVC in the mid-1960s, was apparently a gloomy old Victorian building - but never wholly seen. We did get the odd glimpse, but the exterior's starring moment came when Christine Hardman climbed up onto the roof in a suicide attempt in 1962. We still didn't see much of the building, but a certain small area of the roof is now faithfully recorded.

The interior, of course, saw more action - including the introduction of one Miss Elizabeth Theresa Lynch in 1966.

The late 1960s saw the Mission Hall and the factory demolished and a row of horribly modernistic maisonettes built in their place. Gosh, weren't they ugly! And somehow they never quite keyed into the street and few residents were seen. Effie Spicer, an old acquaintance of Jack Walker, lived there briefly, as did Ena and the Barlow family.

But, in 1971, after Valerie Barlow electrocuted herself with a hairdryer and caused a fire at the maisonettes, they were demolished.

They were replaced by a community centre and a warehouse. The Glad Tidings Mission had dabbled in community work in its latter years, so the new community centre on the site was rather like 'out with the new, in with the old' - particularly when Ena became live-in caretaker there. It was a peculiar building, looking rather like a shed with gothic windows. And why did Ken Barlow and Karen Barnes, a young woman he assisted with her reading, emerge from Ena's flat when Ken saw her off the premises in 1979? Goodness alone knows. I'm sure Ena would not have been keen on them traipsing their way through. Then, in 1980, the front of the centre was rebuilt due to problems with the foundations, and looked rather more real.

The Street with its groovy, space age '60s maisonettes.

The warehouse suffered a disastrous fire in 1975, and was bought by Mike Baldwin the following year. It was a grim building, fit for purpose only. As Connie Clayton said in 1985: 'The view of that factory don't grow on me.' The factory, of course, boasted a sewing room, several offices, and a packing department which we never saw. Did it need a dedicated packing department - after all, it wasn't that big a concern? Search me, luvvie. Of course, in the 1980s, Acorn Antiques also had a packing department.

Coronation Street, circa 1985 - just before Alf Roberts had the Corner Shop modernised.

The 1980s, of course, were a time of change. The decade was hugely controversial - heaven or hell, darling? With all the shouting going on (which still goes on when the 1980s are discussed to this day) it's hard to tell. Maybe it was both, but it certainly left its mark on Coronation Street.

1989: A glimpse of what would become a charity shop, then the hairdressing salon. 

When Maurice Jones demolished the factory and community centre to make way for a spanking new development of houses, shops and industrial units, the 'dark side' of the Street finally moved into the modern day and the cheap-but-stylish development was a revolution.

You know, luvvie, from certain vantage points the development looked a bit like toy town. I mean, I wouldn't have fancied living there - although, like the old terrace, the area's strange magic worked to make the interiors bigger than the exteriors.

Now all that's solved (well, just about) with the move to the new exterior set.

Well, love, in't final part I'll give my final opinion on the Street's architectural oddities past and present. Tarah for now, cock. I'm poppin' round Ida's for a brew. With a bit of luck I might get a gipsy cream with it - but I won't hold me breath.

Flamin' Nora! They're well past their sell-by!

Monday 2 March 2020

Coronation Street: Feminism, The Gay Creator, Misandry And Rita Fairclough The Liar...

The scriptwriter of a Coronation Street episode in the early 1990s had no qualms in rewriting history to make our Street favourite Rita Fairclough out to be a victim of an insensitive husband, while actually making Rita seem like a downright liar, touting for sympathy, to those of us who knew the plot.

Back in 1981, Rita suddenly discovered a strong maternal instinct. True, she had looked after Harry Bates's kids some years before, but streetwise Rita had always seemed quite happy without kids of her own, telling Mavis there would be no patter of tiny feet at No 9 after she married Len.

In 1980, when Rita walked out on Len, her concerns were for a 'decent' house and a dishwasher - not kids.

But in 1981 Rita babysat Nicky Tilsley, and suddenly went all broody. She told Len she wanted to adopt, and Len, at first stunned and incredulous, very quickly agreed. Then the couple found out they were too old, and fostered instead.

But in the early 1990s, Rita told Sally Webster that by the time Len had agreed on adoption, they were too old.

A huge difference.

Corrie making victimised heroines out of its female characters is farcical. The women are at their best when being strong, human and frequently awful, seeing the faults of their spouses and partners, not their own. Audrey telling Alma she'd married a 'big baby' in the 1990s was a classic example of this. Our beautiful Aud had been selfish, childish (locking herself in the loo in a sulk after she and Alf had been forced to move into the Corner Shop flat when the chain on the house they were hoping to buy collapsed) and generally a lazy shopaholic for years. And we loved her for it. The fact she could see none of her own faults made us love her more.

I have to say that many of Coronation Street's women are at their best when following the template laid down by the show's creator, Tony Warren, himself a gay man and not averse to a bit of camp.

Let's hear Mr Warren on the subject: 'I'd known all these queens [gay men with a penchant for camp] in the village. Some of their dialogue was too good not to use. I remember giving Elsie lines that they would say. When you think of some of the things she came out with, how many straight women have you heard say that?'

The original template - women talking like camp men. The genius - the late Mr Tony Warren.

The original scripts, with their apparently ordinary but slightly tweaked dialogue (witness Ena in the Corner Shop in 1960!), were very much this man's tribute to northern English femininity. But far more evocative of a witty evening in a gay pub with a number of camp men present than ordinary female conversation. The world was really not ready for a soap about gay men!

Coronation Street has become self consciously feminist - and as that ideology is now being questioned far and wide (men oppressed women - oh, really?!) is straying far from its roots and has been growing progressively worse since the 1970s (the Susi Hush era). Ideologies are not facts.

The Street went from being a lovely matriarchy (as many such streets are) to being the misandry mile. A great difference, relying on warped Feminist dogma to score points and create female victimhood.

So, Rita, love, don't tell lies, eh, chuck? Don't forget your marriage was under the microscope on our TV screens - we were there too - so it really doesn't wash.

For years, Feminism was not questioned. But now it is. Chivalry should not allow riding rough shod over facts and demonising an entire gender, and the facts about the vote - suffragettes bombing and harming working class, vote-less men with acid, the SCUM Manifesto, the Duluth Model and the horrors experienced by Erin Pizzey in the 1970s are being examined at long last. As are the true facts about the gender pay gap and the workplace death gap.

About time too.

So, pack it in, eh, Corrie?

The misandrist nonsense (often created by 'white knight' chivalrous men) still goes on and was one of the things which drove me away from the show many years ago.

Remember your roots.

Questioning Feminism? Heresy, eh? Misogynistic or not? Not. Read what Karen Straughan has to say on the subject and just how this hate ideology has infested every nook and cranny of our lives:

Thursday 13 February 2020

What If Coronation Street Was Archie Street? Part Four

Well, luvs, we've covered a lot of ground, and now we find ourselves in the back ginnel running between Coronation Street and Mawdsley Street.

The back yards are tiny, poky affairs, with outside lavvies (once the only lavs in each household). Of course, they're not lavs anymore. But the Ogdens' at No 13 was operating as a second lav in 1980 (and probably well beyond). We're not sure about the rest.

The kitchens jut out into the yards and... well... back in the day they shared the Street magic of being much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The kitchen windows were low-set (are they on the 21st century exterior set?), but indoors had kitchen sinks beneath them. From outside, they were pantry-sized cubby holes.

No 9, with its lean-to glass extension, was the only house to differ.

The Corrie back ginnel as it was on the 1982 to early 21st Century set.

Ken and Deirdre Barlow at Number 1 had a posh kitchen extension in the mid-1980s. This was downright peculiar at first.

The kitchen having expanded, exterior shots showed that the old back room window was now no longer. But it remained inside for ages - before the design team twigged and it was turned into an interior window, giving 'borrowed light' from the kitchen.

Deirdre, Ken and Tracy, embroiled in their late 1980s saga of brillo perms, shoulder pads, Wendy Crozier, and listening to Bros cassettes upstairs, noticed nothing odd of course.

Come on, Tracy luv, join in: 'You're a slave to fashion and your life is full of passion...'

The backyard dividing walls could be odd. Sometimes they moved. Elsie Tanner's yard might be quite large one week, with the yard wall by the Ogdens' back window, but another week the Ogdens' yard might be larger, with the wall by Elsie's back window. And so on down the terrace.

The real back ginnel between Archie Street and Clement Street was featured in the Coronation Street titles for a while back in the 1960s. The Corrie ginnel is cobbled. The Archie Street ginnel was flagged.

Coronation Street backs on to Mawdsley Street - once home to Len Fairclough and Martha Longhurst - and home to Len Fairclough's builder's yard for many years (although it wandered off briefly in a 1976 map of Weatherfield featured in the TV Times). It was in Mawdsley Street, at the congregational chapel, that Emily Nugent married Ernest Bishop in 1972.

Archie Street backed onto Clement Street, named after St Clement's Church, a longer street which ran across the junction from the side of the church.

Len's yard popped over to Balaclava Terrace in 1976 in an officially sanctioned map. And then popped back to Mawdsley Street. It made a nice break.

An old mystery from the back of the Street is the Rovers stairs, running up the back of the premises from 1960-1986. After the infamous fire of 1986, they changed direction during the rebuild. That's because the original route of the stairs was a bit impossible. They would have run straight past the back parlour window.

Also, the part of the Rovers building that juts out to join the strange viaduct... well, it's an amazingly narrow jut-out. In fact, to me, it looks like a wall with a door and an upper window in it. Bet Lynch would never have got down it, even if she'd pulled her chest right in. And as for Fred Gee and Betty Turpin! What possible use is it?

Even in the super-spacious Street of the 21st century, there's still no room at the inn in the Rovers extremity.

Now we've reached Rosamund Street, site of the modern (and frankly bizarre) viaduct arch. In the Archie Street universe, we've reached Cavendish Street. Across the road is St Clement's Church. Coronation Street once had a church opposite it - back in the days of the indoor exterior set. It was called St Mary's, but - from 1968 onwards - that was a thing of the past, replaced by an occasional glimpse of a wall with gates set in it, and, from 1982, by a building which quickly became the Graffiti Club, wine bar and disco.

Echoes of reality: The church opposite the corner of Coronation Street on the 1960s set. Martha, Albert and Ena queue up to get their hair done at Valerie's in the foreground.

Rosamund Street in those days, was, of course, a long, straight road - apparently one of Weatherfield's main arteries (though it never seemed very busy). From the show's earliest days we'd tended to hare off down Rosamund Street at times. A Rosamund Street shop was part of the Street's action for decades. From the days of Swindley's haberdashery and Gamma Garments to the days of Len Fairclough's shop, the Kabin, Rosamund Street was a must-see.

Rita Littlewood, of course, was at first employed as manageress at the Kabin, but later married Len thus becoming part owner, and, upon his death, owner. The Kabin gave us years of wonderful, cherished scenes of Rita and her assistant Mavis Riley.

'I'm telling you now, Rita, that pineapple thingie's giving me the creeps! I can feel its eyes on me!'
'Get a grip, Mavis! There's a lot stranger things round 'ere...'

Next door, of course, baker Joe Dawson opened up a genteel little tea shop in 1978, causing the Kabin's café to close, and, in 1980, this genteel little emporium was bought by one Jim Sedgewick, who turned it into a rough and ready transport café.

In 1990, Rita sold the old Kabin and moved to a brand new one in Coronation Street. But Jim's Café continued to be featured. And here comes another mystery...

After a while, the old Kabin simply disappeared.

The doors to the Kabin and Jim's faced each other across a small, covered lobby.

The Kabin door remained for a while after Rita had decamped, seen from the interior of Jim's whenever somebody opened the door to enter or exit. But then, suddenly, without explanation, the old Kabin door disappeared, and was replaced by an advertising or community notice board. Jim's Café was suddenly at the end of a terrace of shops - and there was no sign of a covered lobby - or a shop next door where the old Kabin should have been - and no sign that part of the terrace had been demolished either.

Never mind, cock.

What a difference a decade makes! In 1984, it was Mavis, Rita and the pineapple thingie. In 1994, the old Kabin had vanished.

Next time I'll be takin' a look at the other side of the streets - Coronation and Archie - to delve more into't past and some of its oddities.

Anyway, I'm off to bingo and that new Pizza Hut in Esmerelda Street with Ida Clough tonight - so I'd better be makin' tracks. Should be a great night. You know worra laugh she is.