Friday, 17 December 2010

Granada Studios - a history


The (current) home of Coronation Street

In 1954, brothers Sidney and Cecil Bernstein, the brains behind the Granada Cinema chain (founded in Dover in 1930 and named after their favourite holiday destination), bought the license to broadcast independent television to the north west region of England. Up until then the BBC were the only TV broadcasters. The Bernsteins chose the north west, not because they were from the region, but quite simply because of the area’s high rainfall. They figured that the poor weather would keep people inside watching the telly, giving them a greater chance of ratings success.

Their gamble – they actually had the Granada office building designed as a hotel as a fall back in case the company failed – was that Northern people were fed up with London-centric shows (almost all the BBC’s output came from the capital) and wanted to see people and places they recognised and could identify with. Their philosophy was to seek out regional acting and writing talent who had a desire to work on shows set in and around Manchester.

Of course, these days Coronation Street is the most famous show made at the city centre studios. Corrie has its own outdoor lot and two indoor studios - one either end of the street itself – this area is known as Stage One. In effect, although other programmes are made at this site, Coronation Street has its own self-contained area. The Corrie lot features the outdoor street set with indoor studios (containing the house and shop interior sets) at either end of the street. The arches behind the Kabin conceal one studio and the Victoria Court flats conceal the other. The buildings on the street are mainly empty shells used for storage and as offices, although the factory is often used inside as a police station, the medical centre houses the hospital set and the Victoria flats entrance housed the prison set during John and Fiz’s marriage story.

The current outdoor set, with the main Granada building
behind.  Today there's a viaduct in the gap to
the left of the Rovers and the Victoria St shops
stand where we are viewing it from.
 Other parts of the studios have also been used for Corrie filming – Carla’s flat entrance (when Rosie was spying on her) was the Corrie cast entrance, an old digital TV studio opposite Stage One was given a make-over and used as the temple where Dev and Sunita married with a fake street built across the Corrie cast car park! Remember when Sally and garage owner Ian Davenport were having a fling? His garage was constructed in old railway arches bordering the Corrie car park.

Today it’s not possible to visit the studios and security is tight. But this wasn’t always the case. The Granada Studios Tours, always a popular attraction in Manchester, particularly with Corrie fans, sadly closed at the end of 1999 and apart from the odd special occasion, it has remained closed. In recent years many of the attractions have been gutted and turned over to new uses – the Baker Street set is now used for Coronation Street filming with the front door of 221b Baker Street retained in the studio. The outdoor area used as an American street scene is used for car parking and the replica of the Rovers Return which used to be open to the public to dine and drink in (not the one used for filming) is now the staff bar.
Granada Facts:
1947: Through a partnership with Alfred Hitchcock the Bernsteins made movies Rope and Under Capricorn.
1959: The firm set up Granada TV Rentals
1965: Launched their first motorway services business.
1990: Bought the Forte Posthouse Hotels chain.
1991: Sold the cinema chain.
They have owned at one time or another: Harry Ramsdens, Granada Bingo, Camelot Theme Parks, 10% share of Liverpool FC, Granada Vending Machines.

Corrie's On The Move

The very first outdoor set
After years of speculation it's been confirmed that a whole new Corrie set will be built on land next to the Imperial War Museum of the North, which borders the Salford Quays area.  A bridge is currently being built across the Manchester Ship Canal which will link the Corrie site with the MediaCity development which will house new Granada offices and facilities.  This means that ITV and the BBC will, in effect, share some facilities.
We're waiting to hear what will happen to the current outdoor set - will it be demolished?  Will it open as a tourist attraction?  We wait further news!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tram Crash TV!

Did you all catch it? The sparks flew, voices were raised and a few careers came off the rails ... yes, the Come Dine With Me Coronation Street Special was well worth watching (from behind the sofa).
In case you missed it (I'm sure you should be able to find it on Channel 4's i-player site) we had Ken Morley (Reg), Julie Goodyear (Bet), Phil Middlemiss (Des) and Tupele Dorgu (Kelly) entertaining each other to consecutive dinner parties at their homes (well, in true reality Tv style Julie's 'home' wasn't actually her real home). 
Ken Morley's behaviour crossed the line somewhat (think highly embarrasing uncle at a family do) which included leering, groping, spitting food, testing food with his finger, wearing his wife's knickers, and much more besides.  Julie's evening included a near-naked slave, a whip and ... well, you needed to be there (o maybe not).  Tupele looked like Alice in Wonderland trapped at this ludicrous, and slightly frightening, mad hatter's tea party.
If you can catch it, do - if only to see that Reg Holdsworth was obviously a watered-down version of Mr Morley.