Monday, 7 November 2011

Here comes Christmas!

We've just finished all our Halloween events and now Santa's on his way ...
If you're in the Manchester area over the next few weeks join me at the following events:

Sat 12 Nov: Santa's Reindeer Parade, Oldham town centre at 12.45
Yes, real reindeers bring Santa to Oldham amid a sparking Christmas parade with three bands, pantomime characters and much more!
Sat 19 and Sun 20 Nov: Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Failsworth 11am - 4pm
A range of free family entertainments daily.
Sun 20 Nov: Oldham's Christmas Lights Show from 4.20pm
Wallace and Gromit start a huge fireworks display as the lights come on.  Santa arrives in unusual style and it's all hosted by Mark and Jane.
Fri 25 Nov: Murder By The Book - an outrageous murder mystery evening at Oldham Library. Sold out!
Sat 26 and Sun 27 Nov: Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Failsworth. 
Harry Potter Weekend with look-a-likes, real owls and lots more!
Sat 3 - 18 Dec: Mrs Claus's Festive Village on Oldham High Street daily.
Attractive fairytale cabins host a range of hot food and drink outlets with a daily entertainments programme for all the family.
Sat 3 and Sun 4 Dec: Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Failsworth.
Another daily selection of clowns, face painters and much more in store.
Sat 10 and Sun 11 Dec: Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Failsworth.
Meet Mrs Claus and her entertainers each day.

For more information go to or

You'll also find me playing a dancing polar bear and Santa in Oldham's Christmas TV commercial on Granada all this week.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The incomparable Betty Driver

Today I attended Betty's funeral, held in St Ann's Church in Manchester city centre.  Betty, who was 91, was universally loved by everyone who worked on Coronation Street and the church was packed with both cast, production and crew past and present.  Betty had chosen the music and decided on the details herself, choosing Saturday as a day on which, with no Corrie being filmed, everyone who wished to could attend.

The service began with Granada staff and family friends carrying her coffin into the beautiful church as sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows.  The church itself, full of white and pink roses as she had requested.  The first piece of music was 'Lord of the Dance' after which Helen Worth spoke of working alongside Betty and of her skill for making something out of nothing - with Betty a look could say it all.

This was followed by a recording of 'Swan Lake' before theatre producer Bill Kenwright, who played her screen son Gordon, spoke of her being a 'juggernaut of love'.  Next came Brittan's 'Jubilate Deo', a reading from Matthew and two ecclesiastical addresses before the Lord's Prayer and Verdi's 'Requiem'.

Betty's personal assistant Charles Orr then introduced a recording of Betty singing - something he had insisted on (Betty never liked hearing her recordings).  She received a standing ovation from those gathered in the church as the sound of applause from the hundreds of fans waiting in the square outside was heard through the ancient walls.  The congregation left and the coffin was borne out of the church to 'Nun Danket'.

A beautiful blue sky awaited us as we emerged into St Ann's Square.  It was just as Betty had planned it - and it was truly beautiful.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Betty Driver

Betty Driver at the heart of the Corrie cast
Picture: ITV
It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Betty Driver today.
She was a lovely person who always had time to chat and who enjoyed life. 
She will be much missed both by those who knew her personally and by the thousands of fans who knew her via their TV sets.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Locations Tour by Coach

I will be acting as guide on the following tour:

Tuesday 4th October 2011
Check out for details.

Giving you an insider’s view of the world’s most famous TV show.
Learn about its creator Tony Warren, how it made it on air, the inside
stories and secrets … and visit many of the locations of iconic scenes
out and about around Greater Manchester. See the spot where
Richard Hillman tried to kill the Platts, find out just where all the
Weatherfield weddings take place, see where the new Corrie studios
are being built, see where John Stape plunged from the hospital
roof – and much more in our fun day out!’

Includes coach travel and morning and afternoon tea at Daisy Nook Garden Centre, Oldham.
Departs 9.000am; home by approx 5.30pm

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

World of Coronation Street Tour - Last Day in Manchester

Wednesday 14 September

This morning the guests had another surprise when, during breakfast, Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) called in to see them.   They then had time to  visit the city centre before, after lunch, Rob and I took them to the airport and their flight to Dublin. The next few days will be spent touring Ireland – but without us so that’s the end of this year’s report. Why don’t you join us next year? We always have a great time and the tour always varies so, apart from the studios and the classic Corrie locations, there’s always something different! Bookings are taken by If you are visiting Manchester and want a Corrie walking tour visiting some Corrie locations and also hearing some of the city’s history then visit where you’ll find information (note that this tour doesn’t enter the studios) or email us for more details - but please note that we are now largely fully booked for 2011.

World of Coronation Street Tour - Day Five

Tuesday 13 September

An early start but worth it. We travelled around Salford, the city next to Manchester, which inspired Tony Warren. We called at the Red Rec park, passed Bessie Street School, Weatherfield Comprehensive, Audrey’s house, the spot where Tony Gordon escaped from the ambulance, the houses featured in the opening credits and much more. Then we had some free time at Salford Quays, saw where Steve proposed to Karen, where Don tried to kill Alma, where Danny lived and much more. Next we visited the area where the new Corrie set is being built, where Ken was arrested and the community centre where the infamous Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was held.

Next stop was Granada Studios where we were given the VIP treatment and toured the Corrie set, all the indoor sets and we watched filming (can’t tell you what we saw though!). We also met, amongst others, Chesney, Kirk, Roy, Hayley and Katy.
The rest of the afternoon was free.

In the evening we met at the swish Midland Hotel for a dinner with the odd compettion prize thrown in! Each guest also got a lovely limited edition print of Coronation Street as a momento of their visit. However, the shocks and surprises weren’t over as Graeme Hawley (John Stape) also came to dinner with us and shared insider gossip! A really nice man .... and no one died!

World of Coronation Street Tour - Day Four

Monday 12 September

People coming to Manchester often assume we have a lovely Corrie shop where you can get souvenirs. Sadly, it’s not the case. So we work with internet shops who sell Corrie items to get hold of a range of products which we put on sale in the hotel. This morning the sale took place before we set off to Worsley. This is where Martha lured Ken onto her barge!

Today was less Corrie and more countryside so our next call was the lovely town of Clitheroe where we looked around the shops and some walked up to the Norman Castle. We also passed locations used in Born and Bred, Calendar Girls and Great Creatures Great and Small before arriving at Skipton, whre we enjoyed the quaint shops and cafes.
Next we drove over the picturesque moors and through Colne, where we paused to see the monument to Wallace Hartley, the bandleader on the Titanic. Then we had shopping time at the Boundary Mills store before a lovely fish and chip supper.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

World of Coronation Street Tour - Day Three

Sunday 11 September

This morning we drove to the city of Chester with its historic black and white Tudor-style buildings, interesting shops and beautiful cathedral. We had some free time to look around  - and we also saw the military parade marking the anniversary of 9/11, before boarding the coach for a drive through the Cheshire countryside. Next stop was Tatton Hall, a palatial stately home set in huge grounds. This was in fact the first outside filming location Corrie had back in 1962. It’s also where Graeme took Tina on his rickshaw, where Deirdre’s solicitor was based and where Annie’s Rover ended up in the lake. Most recently it’s where Roy and Hayley married. We had plenty of time to look around – and enjoy a bite of lunch.

Shelley's wedding dress
 Next stop was the church where Joe was buried, where Betty married Billy and where baby Jack Dobbs was christened. We got chance to look around and to see, on exhibition, Shelley's wedding dress! Then, continuing the wedding theme, we called at the location of Ken and Deirdre’s second wedding (a friendly policeman also posed for pictures with everyone!) before heading back to the hotel.

Tonight was a free evening.

World of Coronation Street Tour - Day Two

My latest report:

Saturday 10 September

We had a special breakfast treat when actor Jim Whelan, who plays Rev Mike Todd, Weatherfield’s main vicar, called in to say hello and to read from his autobiography. What a lovely man! Then we set off for a locations day. We started by visiting the outside of the Granada Studios so that I could tell the story of how Granada came into being, how Tony Warren got them to make Corrie and how the studios have developed. Throughout the day we will pass lots of Corrie filming locations – we started with the Weatherfield Hospital building (where someone fell recently in the UK - or were they pushed?), the hotel where Molly and Kevin spent a night of passion, the original outdoor Corrie street lot and so on. Then we took a walk through the canal district and learnt about Manchester’s history (there are Corrie locations here too – Roy Cropper almost drowned here for example). We also spotted Izzy across the street! 
Then Rob drove us through the city and out to the Corrie church. Here we explored the church, some got to climb the bell tower (remember granny Brenda holding Bethany from the top?), we visited Liam’s grave, the old folk’s home that Cilla worked in, and saw where Fred’s ashes were scattered. Thanks to the team at the church for making lots of special things happen!

Then we went to Ashton under Lyne where we had some free time to shop and eat before we saw Weatherfield Town Hall and then passed the church where Roy and Hayley almost married first time and the original Weatherfield Registry Office. Next stop was the dockside where Richard Hillman tried to kill the Platts and then we called at the location of Gail and Joe’s wedding (it was also where Vernon and Liz, Joe and Gail and Steve and Becky all wed  ... and if you don't mind spoilers read at the bottom and you'l find out who also tied the knot there in the UK episodes recently). Then it was back to the hotel for a break.

Introducing our special guest
We met up at the Briton’s Protection, one of the oldest pubs in Manchester, for a Corrie dinner. There was a surprise or two there – I took along some props I own such as the statue Tracy killed Charlie with and so on. And all our guests were amazed when Fiz (actress Jennie McAlpine) walked through the door. What a treat for everyone as she joined us for dinner.

SPOLIER FOR NON-UK VIEWERS:Others who've married there are Graeme and Xin and David and Kylie.

Friday, 9 September 2011

And we're off - the annual tour has begun!


An Exclusive experience brought to you each year by Kemptville Travel, Toronto
In association with Mark Llewellin, Manchester and

For all those who couldn’t join us on this year’s Corrie holiday then here’s my first diary entry.

Friday 9 September
I’m a little tired having spent yesterday at the celebrations for the maiden visit of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth cruise ship to Liverpool. There was a special concert at the Anglican Cathedral (amazing – I’ve never been inside before!) featuring Lesley Garratt, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Band of the Welsh Guards. In the audience were the passengers plus VIPs including Liz Dawn, who I caught up with afterwards - and who looked great.   I was asked if I could stay on board but I had to be at Manchester Airport this morning to greet my Corrie guests.

So the plane landed at 11.30am and Rob, my wonderful coach driver, and I were there to meet them. I have 35 guests this year (from the UK, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand). We whisked them to their city centre hotel and left them to unpack and settle in.

For their escort Peter and I it was time to run through a few last minute arrangements before we start properly tomorrow.

At 6.30pm we all gathered together for a sherry before dinner. The first night is always informal and gives the guests a chance to meet together for the first time. Some come back year after year (we must be doing something right) and some are here for the first time and, I guess, aren’t quite sure what to expect. Many people have saved for this, dreamed of it, or have come for a special anniversary or birthday treat so we put a great deal of effort into making each trip extra special.

There was a Corrie episode on TV at 9pm so everyone rushed off to their rooms after dinner. There are some people who would walk over hot coals rather than find out some Corrie spoilers but with guests from across the globe, all at different points in the story, it’s impossible not to find out some upcoming secrets.

Check back for my next diary entry.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Murder by the Book

If you fancy a laugh - come and see my new play Murder By The Book, which is being performed  by a team of amateur actors (including myself I must confess!) at Oldham Library on Friday 25 November at 7pm.  Tickets cost just £4 (incl wine and buffet).  It'll all be over by about 8.30pm.

It's an evening of over-the-top acting where you'll be asked to assist in solving the crime.  Oldham-born actress Brenda Le Grande returns to her home town to launch her autobiography 'I Did It My Way - So Get Over it!' after 28 years as queen of the daytime soaps.  However, she hasn't counted on a few surprise guests, too much vino and a murder!  Can PC Lawton solve the crime in time?  Do we really care?  Come along and find out.

Call 0161 770 8000 to book your tickets!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Weatherfield opens its doors

Jack Walker listening in to a conversation
in the snug.  Picture: ITV
Each September Heritage Open Days are held across the UK - buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up, others open free of charge.  It's a great way to see behind closed doors - and this year there are several buildings partcipating in the North west which have Corrie connections.  You can check out all participating buildings at but here are some Corrie ones:

Portland Basin, Tameside: Location of Richard Hillman driving Platts into the water.
St James Church, Didsbury: Location of Betty's wedding to Billy and Joe's funeral.
Grand Theatre, Blackpool: Lots of Corrie stars have appeared there.
North Pier, Blackpool: Used as filming location many times.
St Stephen on the Cliffs, Blackpool: Has a rare Actor's Chapel and Arthur Leslie, who played Jack Walker, is buried in the grounds.
East Lancashire Railway, Bury: Used for location filming of the train heading off to Roy and Hayley's wedding.
Dukinfield Old Chapel, Dukinfield: Where Roy and Hayley tried for a blessing many years ago.
Manchester Town Hall: Used as a location for the show's 40th birthday celebrations (it's also been in First Amongst Equals, Sherlock Holmes etc)
Oldham Parish Church, Oldham: Pretty interior and also where actor Bill Waddington (Percy Sugden) was a choirboy.
St Mary's, Prestwich: Used for the majority of Corrie weddings, funerals and baptisms.
St Clement's, Ordsall: Used for the very first weddings.  Archie St (used for the odd bit of filming and as the inspiration for the street set design) used to run up to the church.

Events take place over the period 8-11 September so check the website before setting off as some open on only certain days.
I'll be calling in at St Mary's, Prestwich on Saturday and St James, Didsbury on Sunday!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Corrie Vicar's Book

Coronation Street's vicar (actor Jim Whelan) has put pen to paper and come up with an autobiography entitled 'What a Life!'.  Jim recounts many stories of his years on Corrie (he's not just been the vicar you know!) plus behind-the-scenes tales of his other acting roles.

The book, which is availbale as an e-book only, is due to be published on 20th August at £5.99.  Check out for more details.

Below is an interview with Jim written by my late writing partner Peter Riley back in 2010:


Actor Jim Whelan on his Corrie parish

Jim Whelan is a face known to millions of Coronation Street fans. Whether he’s marrying, burying or counseling the residents of Weatherfield, he has become a familiar feature.
Jim, who has been a professional actor and entertainer for more than 40 years, has been the Vicar of Weatherfield for several years now, and his most recent appearances have seen him officiating at the cremation of Vera Duckworth, following the exit of Liz Dawn from the show, and prior to that as the man who finally married Jason Grimshaw and Sarah Platt, played by Ryan Thomas and Tina O’Brien.
His character, Vicar Mike, was also officiant (or should that be referee?) at the wedding of Steve and Karen McDonald, after first attempting to deal with the fisticuffs between the bride (Suranne Jones) and her rival Tracy Barlow (Kate Ford) who were trying to tear each other apart under the watchful eye of the church congregation.
“It has become a way of life playing the Corrie vicar and I love it!” Jim said as we chatted at his house in Bury, just a few miles from the Prestwich church which plays his fictitious home. “I am semi-retired now but if I get the call from the Coronation Street office to preside over a wedding or funeral then I am more than happy to do it. I have played the vicar for several years now and I think I should be the ‘official’ Vicar of Weatherfield, with my own vicarage!
“Seriously, I have enjoyed playing the part, though many people don’t realize that I have been in the Street before. In fact I have played six different characters in all but over the past few years the vicar role has been quite frequent and goes back a long way.
“Some viewers may remember the plot years ago when Terry Duckworth, (the wayward son of Jack and Vera) married his girlfriend Lisa while he was handcuffed to prison guards. Well when Lisa was eventually killed by being run over by a car I was the vicar who officiated at her funeral.”
For Jim acting has been a long process which started with a teenage desire to take to the stage. In 1971 he made his first Street appearance when he was a customer in the corner shop. In 1973 he appeared in the lunchtime drama series Crown Court, made at the Corrie studios, as a jury foreman and in the same year appeared in the BBC comedy series Last of the Summer Wine, in which he has now appeared four times. He returned to the famous cobbles as a postman delivering the good news to Jack and Vera Duckworth that they had inherited £30,000 following the death of Jack’s brother Cliff before donning his dog collar again.
His Corrie roles have given him the chance to catch up with old friends. Jim said: “I first met Bill Tarmey many years ago. I had been fixing a table lamp at home when I was electrocuted because it was faulty. I ended up going to hospital and I came out with my hand and arm bandaged. In order to make a living I was singing in clubs in those days, between acting jobs, and one night I was at a club waiting to go on and sing, along with the bandaged arm, when I hears this gruff voice asking ‘what have you done to your arm then?’ I turned around and saw this chap standing there smoking a cigarette. It was Bill Tarmey.
“Bill had turned up to sing too, because he wasn’t famous then, he also had to make a living and he told me he’d had a heart attack not long before. So like two invalids we started talking and became friendly. So it has been nice to be able to meet him now and then whenever we have both appeared in Corrie at the same time, and it was particularly poignant when we met up to film Vera’s cremation service at Manchester Crematorium.
“It was the same with Barbara Knox and Anne Kirkbride. We worked together more than 30 years ago to the early days at Oldham Rep. It’s always nice to talk about the old days on a long day’s filming.”
During periods when he wasn’t acting Jim spent his days helping out by driving children to and from school for a local firm. But Jim, now 66, has now called it a day from full time work, unless he gets offered a full time role as Corrie’s vicar, of course. “That would be nice – they might give me a vicarage to live in!” he laughs.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Thinking ahead to panto time

Did you know that the following ex-Corrie cast members are donning tights, slapping on the make-up and over-acting (no comments please!) this Christmas ...

Nigel Havers - Peter Pan - Hawth Theatre, Crawley
Julia Howarth - Cinderella - Billingham Forum
Vicky Entwistle - Snow White - Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Debra Stephenson - Jack and the Beanstalk - Pavillion, Bournemouth
Sue Devaney - Cinderella - Marlowe, Canterbury
Marshall Lancaster - Aladdin - Palace Theatre, Newark
Tupele Dorgu - Snow White - Pavillion, Rhyl
Bev Callard - Sleeping Beauty - Lyceum, Sheffield
Eric Potts - Dick Whittington - New Theatre, Wimbledon
Amanda Barrie - Cinderella - Connaught, Worthing

More will no doubt be announced!

It's panto time!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Bernstein Legacy

Almost cathedral-like!
 Granada TV was founded by the Bernstein brothers - Sydney and Cecil.  Before they went into TV they ran a successful cinema chain by the same name - the picture shown here is the Granada Tooting Bec and as you can see, they certainly went for some impressive architecture.

It's said that the brothers actually designed the main building at Granada Manchester themselves to save on architect's fees.  It may not be the prettiest structure by today's standards but it will be very sad  to see it all demolished when the TV company moves to its new base in Salford in a couple of years.

Last call for the Kemptville Travel tour!

Last year's tour outside the bookies
Fancy visiting the Coronation Street set?  Seeing some of the filming locations?  Travelling around Ireland?
Kemptville Travel of Toronto offer just that with their annual World of Coronation Street tour - and this is the last call for bookings!

You'll find all the information you need at

Friday, 10 June 2011

I'm Visiting Manchester ....

One of the most frequent email enquiries I get is 'I'm visiting Manchester and I'm a Corrie fan - what is there to see?'  Sadly, the answer - at least on your own - is 'not much' ... but here are a few suggestions:

Manchester Town Hall -
used as a filming locations in
countless TV shows and films.  Find
out more on a walking tour - see below.
 Manchester City Centre:
Granada Studios: Many people think the studios are still open to the public - they are not.  They used to be open as part of the Granada Studios Tour attraction but it all closed down in 1999.  You can walk around the outside of the studios and if you know where to look you can just about see the original viaduct at the end of what was the first outdoor Corrie set and you can just about see the viaduct and side of Dev's shop on the current set.  There are also some blue plaques commemorating some of the original cast members, but that's about that.  There is also no gift shop or anything like that.
Science and Industry Museum: This museum - which is very interesting and free to enter - is next to the studios.  You used to be able to see through a window onto the Corrie set but not anymore.  There is a small - and I mean small - exhibit (a script and a few bits of memorabilia) plus the chance to watch some old episodes on a small TV.  There will be a larger exhibit in due course (I understand they've got the replica tram used for the 50th episodes to show off eventually).
Castlefield: The area to the east of the studios has been used for location filming a lot down the years - a walk around there (it's lovely) will evoke memories I'm sure.  Again, if you know where to look you'll find the place where Tony Gordon tried to drown Roy Cropper, where Les Battersby almost committed suicide, where Zoe ran off with Fiona's baby, where Jamie bid farewell to his dad Danny and so on.
The Old Grapes: The pub which used to be owned by Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) still has some of her pictures and memorabilia on the walls. 

Further afield:
Bury: The East Lancashire Railway was where they filmed the train scenes for Roy and Hayley's wedding.  The station is opposite the Drill Hall which doubled as the prison housing John Stape.
Arley Hall: This lovely stately home is where Liam and Maria, Mike Baldwin and Linda, and Steve and Karen married - it's also where Joy Fishwick's funeral was held.
Tatton Hall: Has appeared many times - Annie Walker's car went into the lake here, Deidre's solicitor was based here during the John the Pilot story and more recently, Roy and Hayley's wedding reception (well, some of it) was shot here.
Worsley: Martha's barge was moored here when she had her dalliance with Ken.
Bradford: Both Tracy and Gail's court cases where filmed here and in the National Media Museum you can watch old episodes.
Ashton-under-Lyne: The town is the home of Portland Basin, where Richard Hillman drove the Platts into the canal, Ryecroft Hall which doubles as the registry office and Ashton Town Hall which is where Alf Roberts used to be Mayor.

Guided Tours:
I offer a guided tour (it's just for your group so does not operate on set days or at set times) which takes you around the city centre for about 1.5 hours (you'll hear some of Manchester's history, visit Castlefield, the Roman ruins, go round the outside of the studios, hear how Corrie is made, hear about Granada and Tony Warren etc) then we call at the Old Grapes (see above) for 20 minutes or so before boarding a Manchester tram to Salford Quays where we walk for another 30 minutes (you'll see where Steve proposed to Karen, where Don tried to kill Alma, where Mike, Dev, Danny and Carla have all lived, and where the new Corrie studios are being built).  We then finish at a shopping mall where there's a food court and a discounted Cadbury's chocolate store.  I, of course, point out where the tram stop is to get you back into town after you've eaten and shopped.  We normally start in the city centre at 10.30am and finish about 2.15pm. 
Everyone gets a free book as a memento and of course, you can ask all the Corrie questions you like - and I'll bring along lots of pictures, a Corrie script and other items to illustrate the talk!
If you would like more details, my availability for a particular date or a quote please email with the number in your party (it's ideal for ones, twos and upwards).

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Corrie! play - last few weeks

The Corrie! stage play (which I heartily recommend) comes to the end of its tour in a few weeks.  If you haven't already seen it (or even if you have) you might want to catch it at the following venues:
This week: The Regent, Stoke
Next week: Theatre Royal, Brighton
Following week: New Theatre, Hull
End of June: Festival Theatre, Malvern
Rumour has it that that will be the end of the play - though personally I hope they make a DVD of it.
There are offers out there for discounted tickets on selected nights - for example at Brighton there's a great 2 for 1 offer for the first couple of nights at
Gaynor Faye is narrator at all venues except Malvern where it's Roy Barraclough.
Check each theatre's websites for performance times and prices.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The criminal side of Manchester


Some years ago I co-wrote a book called The World of Crime (you can still find it on ebay).  Today I was giving a Corrie walking tour (if you require more information on those please look at previous postings) around Manchester and Salford and in the pouring rain, sheltering under a viaduct we got talking about Manchester's Victorian crimes - and I remembered this article I did years back for a crime magazine promoting the book.  Hope you enjoy it.

Dukinfield Police.  Picture copyright
Tameside Council.
‘The World of Crime’ brings together a unique collection of true criminal tales from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. These stories come from across the globe – from America, Canada, France and of course, from the British Isles. But of most interest to Lancashire readers will be two chapters based in the north – one telling the tale of a policeman’s lot and the other, the fiendish story of master criminal Charles Peace.

Peace was born in Sheffield, the son of a very resourceful man indeed. His father, originally from Staffordshire, worked as a collier until he lost a leg in a freak accident and was thrown onto the occupational scrap heap. He re-trained – as a lion tamer would you believe – and joined the famous ‘Wombwell’s Wild Beast Show’. The family eventually ended up in Sheffield and little Charlie Peace was educated in the city until he was fourteen when he was sent to work in a rolling mill.

Here he too was victim to a tragic accident when a piece of red-hot steel entered his leg and he was left a cripple. In 1851, aged just nineteen, he took the first steps on his path of crime. He broke into a house but was caught and sentenced to one month’s detention. After his release he took up the violin and toured the area playing at fairs and in public houses. One contemporary account describes him as “the modern Paganini.”

Violin playing was just a cover however, and he was arrested again in 1854 when he served a further four years. Upon his release he took up both violin playing and burglary once more and on August 11th 1859 a house in Manchester was broken into and a large quantity of goods stolen. The following day the police discovered the stolen goods hidden in a hole in a field, they left the items there and kept watch. Soon after, Peace arrived to retrieve his bounty and he was arrested following a violent struggle. This time he got six years.

Charles Peace’s story continues in the same vein – further crimes, further arrests, further sentences. By 1876 he had a wife, a daughter and a mistress. At about midnight on August 1st of that year he entered the grounds of a house belonging to a Samuel Greatorex on the boundary of Whalley Range and Chorlton, about four miles south of Manchester city centre. Unfortunately he had been seen by two constables and one of them, twenty-three-year-old PC Nicholas Cock went to challenge him. Peace drew a revolver, the young PC held his truncheon out shouting, “Put the gun down and don’t be foolish!” Peace fatally shot him in the chest and made off.

Near the scene of the killing lived two brothers, William and John Habron, who were well known to the police. It was they who were arrested for the crime having been overheard some days before threatening the young constable. John Habron was found guilty and sentenced to hang – Peace sat in the public gallery and watched the case, no doubt with some glee. Habron was not actually hung but, following some petitioning of the Home Secretary by influential local businesspeople uneasy with the evidence offered against him, the innocent man was sentenced to a period of penal servitude.

Peace continued to commit his crimes and prospered so much that he ended up living in a large villa in London with two mistresses. It all came to an end when he was arrested during a robbery and, having threatened to shoot the arresting constable, he was sentenced to life for attempted murder. One of the mistresses collected a £100 reward for revealing his true identity and the police realised that they had caught one of Britain’s most wanted. He was hung on February 25th 1879 and shortly after, William Habron was freed with £800 compensation.

Another section of the book recounts the career of Jerome Caminada who rose from constable to superintendent in Victorian Manchester. He’s gone down in the history books because of the colourful, detailed diaries he kept and this book uses many of these recollections to great effect. Caminada’s beat included Spinning Field just off the busy thoroughfare of Deansgate which is described as being, “One of the worst dens for prostitution and theft – it was a very brave police officer who entered these premises without fearing for his safety.”

In Caminada’s time public houses were allowed to stay open from 4am until 1am and were popular haunts for the under-classes. Many of the beer-houses laid on ‘entertainment’ such as dog fights, rat-baiting and badger draws and it was here that gangs met to discuss and plan their next crimes. The police officer draws the distinction between the different types of criminal and their punishments, chronicling that a poor man who stole goods worth twelve shillings was sentenced to ten years whereas a middle-class criminal got just twelve months for stealing £4000.

“I have often stood by when men have been sentenced to terms of penal servitude which have filled me with sorrow, because I have been convinced that in many cases the sentence meant either a criminal death of insanity; for astonishing as the statement may appear, I have never yet known a man or a woman return from a long sentence of penal servitude in their rational mind; and yet in all probability the criminal had never in the course of his or her life a single chance of getting out of the circumstances in which he or she was born, breathing through poverty an air of temptation.” he records expressing an incredibly liberal attitude for the times.

Caminada served with the Manchester Police from 1868 until his retirement in 1899 by which time he had become the most honoured man in a force that totalled 1,037 officers. It is only right that this new book pays tribute to such a man and gives a unique insight into life in Manchester during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Criminal and police are well represented in this collection of twenty-eight stories – some murders, some cons such as the man who ‘sold’ Buckingham Palace and some famous names such as the disappearance of Agatha Christie or the real crimes investigated by Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A great read full of intriguing yarns and illustrated with over ninety pictures.

If you live in Greater Manchester and you like true crime, you'll find more stories like these in Crime Files Oldham, which will be out via the Oldham Chronicle newspaper in September. 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Say It With ... Flowers

Daisy Nook Garden Centre, on the outskirts of Manchester,  is launching a new event's programme - and I am delighted to be working with them on a number of promotions.

This coming weekend (June 11/12) there are lots of offers and entertainment by Barry McQueen, the delightfully eccentric Town Crier of Blackpool to mark the Queen's official 85th birthday.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Now you can sail to Weatherfield!

I think this is a first! And you could be part of it!  The first cruise to Weatherfield!
Alec Gilroy used to work on the cruise liners, Rita's been known to take a cruise - and if you remember way back Hilda once worked as a cleaner on a cruise ship so Corrie has lots of cruise connections.

The Caribbean Princess
 A Canadian-based company is offering a great way of seeing the UK - and visiting lots of Corrie filming locations in my company.  Laurel Dougherty is the lady behind this unique trip and it's all aboard the Caribbean Princess ship for a 12 night British Isles Cruise departing from Southampton on June 7, 2012.
The itineray of calls is: Southampton, St. Peter Port, Cobh, Dublin, Liverpool (when you'll join me for a day in and around Manchester calling at lots of Corrie filming locations, hearing all about the show and how it's made, and passing the Corrie studios too of course!), Belfast, Glasgow,  Invergordon, Edinburgh, Le Havre, Southampton.
Prices range from $2,365.00 to $3,615.00/person CAD - depending on the cabin category (includes taxes, fees and tour).  I'm also told that if you book between June 6-20th, 2011, thanks to the Princess Cruise Line sale you'll find extra incentives! There are also many other perks such as an onboard coupon booklet valued at $650.00 USD (per stateroom) etc.

Anyone booking this particular cruise (Coronation Street) will also receive an onboard credit of $50.00, a bottle of wine, chocolate covered strawberries and a 6 x 8 photo (all of these are per stateroom).

If you fancy it, want to ask questions, or want to get it booked then you can contact Laurel as shown below:
Expedia CruiseShipCenters,
215 Centennial Rd., Unit 12
Orangeville, ON, L9W5K9
(519) 941-3200 or toll free 1-877-941-3201

Fax: (519) 941-4788


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

10 Corrie Wedding Trivia Facts

As we all calm down after the royal wedding here are 10 Corrie wedding facts to amuse you all:

1. When Ken married Deirdre first time round the press speculated on whether the actors had really become hitched - it turned out that the actor playing the vicar was really ordained.
2. When the 'Burton and Taylor of Weatherfield' married second time round the wedding was filmed at Manchester's costume museum.
Did the actors marry as well as
their characters?
Picture: ITV
3. When Steve married Vicky Arden (actually the wedding didn't go through but the couple married abroad later) filming was disrupted by a huge turnout of press photographers.  Outside scenes had to be hastily rewritten so they could be filmed indoors.
4. When Ashley and Claire Peacock married a huge amount of fake snow was used to create the perfect Christmas scenes.  However, when the producer saw the 'rushes' from filming on the street set he demanded more snow and all the scenes of Claire leaving her home had to be re-shot.
5. When Elsie Tanner married Steve Tanner although scenes were not actually filmed in a real church, still photos were taken on location in the Whalley Range part of the city and used in magazines.
6. The first Corrie wedding was that of Joan Walker, daughter of Jack and Annie, but we never saw it on screen.
7. When Harry Hewitt married Concepta Riley scenes of the cars leaving the church were filmed at Archie St in Ordsall with St Clements church in the background.  This is the street on which the Corrie set was modelled.  Sadly, the street iteslf was demolished but the church still stands.
8. When Dev married Sunita a fake street was built across the Corrie car park so that he could ride along it on a horse.  The wedding ceremony was filmed in an old studio opposite the Corrie set.
9. When Bet and Alec Gilroy married her wedding dress was so big that she had trouble walking through the front door of the Rovers.
10. Gail and Brian Tilsley were one of the few Corrie couples to have married in a Catholic church.  This wedding introduced the character of Jack Duckworth into the show.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Manchester and Salford Tours for Groups

Are you a group organiser or a coach operator in the UK?
A hidden corner of Greater Manchester -
visited on our Hidden Manchester
and lowry tours.
 We now offer day tours of Manchester and Salford with an experienced, insured guide.  You just provide the coach and driver and we'll provide the itinerary. 
Themes include: Film and TV (this includes some Corrie locations, Last of the Summer Wine, film locations and much more!), Coronation Street (this includes lots of exterior locations, a trip around the outside of the studios and much more!), Manchester's Hidden History (we visit some of the out of the way places including an 18th century village, the roman ruins, a former home to cowboys and indians and much more!) and In The Footsteps of Lowry (which includes visits to places he painted, the gallery named after him and some of the areas he lived in over the years).
We can also provide a meeting point near the M60 for your group to leave their cars or to take morning coffee (weekdays only).
Email us at for more details.

Coming to Manchester?

Book a walking tour and ride the tram!
I get a lot of emails asking what there is to see in Manchester for Corrie fans.  The truth is that there's very little sadly.  You can walk around the outside of the Granada Studios and catch the tiniest glimpse of the back of the Corrie set but that's about it.  Of course the crew go out and about on locations to film weddings and funerals, cars going into canals etc but these locations are spread across a wide area and without a guide they are very hard to find.  That's why I started acting as guide for travel agents ( and all offer trips from Canada) and group organisers.  I've expanded this to include a walking tour which is ideal for smaller groups.  Obviously it's not just about Corrie but the four hour jaunt includes a two-hour walk around the city centre when you'll hear about Manchester and some of its quirky past, we walk around the studios and I'll point out where the first outdoor Corrie set was, show you the Corrie blue plaques, tell you about Tony Warren, how the show is made etc and we pass several locations used for key stories over the years.  We then take a short break in the pub owned by Liz Dawn (Vera) which has lots of Corrie pictures on the walls.  Then we see the Town Hall and climb on a tram to travel to the docks area of Salford (it's about 15 mins on the tram) and we walk around there, again with me telling you some history and pointing out some Corrie filming locations.  You'll also see where they are currently building the new Corrie studios (yes, Corrie will move within the next two years) before I bid you farewell outside the Cadbury chocolate shop, food court and tram stop.
These tours are exclusive to your party (mostly it's twosomes) and can be booked for any day I'm available.  We normally start at 10.30am and meet at the Midland Hotel in the city centre.
Just email me at with a day or dates and we'll email you back with availability and cost.  It's up to you whether you then book!

Here are some of the comments we've had back from bookers:  "Something I will always remember - and I'll watch Corrie much more attentively in future knowing all the work that goes into it!"  "Thank you - my mum loved her day with you!"  "Wow!  I can now say I stood where Tony tried to drown Roy Cropper!"  "We thoroughly enjoyed our walk - bumping into Fiz and David like that was the icing on the cake."  "Steve is my favourite so to see where he proposed to Karen was lovely.  The whole thing was a treat."  "I'm so glad I booked the tour - I feel I've been to Weatherfield."

Please note that it is not possible to enter the Corrie studios unless on an organised large group trip (check out for details)

Filming in Manchester

The Bonded Warehouse (you see it behind the medical
centre in Corrie) used to stand on one side of Grape St
with Granada Studios on the other.  Now the street is gone
and the studios occupy the whole site.
 It's been a busy few weeks with quite a few days spent filming for a couple of overseas projects.  I was asked to talk about Granada in the 60s for a programme, which is to be aired on RTE in Ireland later in the year, about the late actor Ray MacAnally (My Left Foot, A Very British Coup etc).  Ray worked at Granada in 1967/8 when he starred in 'Spindoe'.  I had to tell his son, Aongus, what the studios would have been like in those days and about the series.  Aongus is a TV star in Ireland.  We filmed in Granada and I got the crew permission to film on what's known as Grape Street where they have a replica of the Rovers Return (it's not used for filming but is left over from when the studios used to be open to the public).  Aongus turned out to be a big Corrie fan so he was delighted when I showed him Gail Force, the infamous boat, some Streetcar cars and other bits and pieces that were lying about the place.  He wasn't allowed to see the street set though.
I've also been filming for a Canadian project which I'm not allowed to say too much about right now.  It's something Corrie fans will be interested in and if all goes well Canadians will get to see it next spring.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Tours to the UK for Canadian fans

On both tours you'll see where Richard Hillman died -
and lots more!
There are two tours coming up in September.  The first is run by Kemptville Travel (out of Toronto) and includes the full Corrie experience (studio visit, Corrie locations and 2 special guest events) and several days in Ireland. 

The other is run by Square 1 Travel in Vancouver and includes London, Manchester (including a day of Corrie locations and a guest for dinner).

Check their websites out for all the details! and

Don't forget - if you visit Manchester on your own, I do run walking tours.  You'll find details in previous posts.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Another tour from Canada

Live on the west coast of Canada?  You might want to visit the website where you will find details of their trip to the UK at the end of September.  It includes two days in Manchester visiting Corrie locations with me as guide ... and it ends with a gala dinner (and special guest!).
Please note that this tour does not visit the Granada Studios.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

About Elsie Tanner

With the upcoming return of Dennis Tanner to the cobbles - here's a little about his mother Elsie:

Elsie Tanner marries Steve Tanner
 One of the original cast of Corrie residents, Elsie had lived at number 11 from the day she married, aged just 16, local thug and enforcer Arnold Tanner. Just days after moving in together he announced that he was joining the Royal Navy and he would visit her just once during the war years – this resulted in the birth (in the Rovers living room) of Linda and then Dennis. At the age of 19 attractive Elsie found herself a mother of two, sewing army uniforms by day and hanging about with American servicemen by night. She fell in love with handsome GI Steve Tanner but fearing Arnold’s reaction, gave him the push.

Arnold returned for a short while only to leave for the merchant navy. Later Dennis was sent to borstal and Linda married Polish Ivan Cheveski and left for Canada. Eventually Arnold returned once more, this time demanding a divorce so that he could marry his new love. At first Elsie refused but then he produced letters written to him by Ena Sharples which revealed Elsie’s other relationships and graphic details of her life. Elsie and Ena would always have a tempestuous relationship as a result.

Then she met and fell for Chief Petty Officer Bill Gregory but he proved to be already married. Elsie drifted from one job to the next – she worked for a while at Weatherfield’s department store Miami Modes (in the better dressed department) then at Ellison’s raincoat factory opposite her house. Dennis came and went, working as a theatrical agent then a hairstylist and she rarely heard from daughter Linda. Elsie lacked the roots, family and love that she so needed.

In 1966 Linda and her son Paul returned from their new life in Canada and Elsie found herself playing mother all over again – albeit temporarily. In 1967 the Americans returned to nearby Burtonwood and Elsie was thrilled to be reunited with old flame Steve Tanner whom she married and moved to Boston with. But things didn’t work out and she sold her engagement ring to buy an air ticket back to Manchester. Dennis had moved a commune of hippies into the house but Elsie quickly had them moved on and Dennis married one, Jenny, and left. Steve followed Elsie back but he fell down number 11’s stairs and fatally broke his neck. There was always much conjecture over who killed him with Elsie believing Len Fairclough had done it to protect her. However, it later transpired that fellow serviceman Joe Donnelli was the guilty party.

Elsie took a job at a hairdressing salon and fell for the owner Alan Howard whom she wed in 1970 but his business failed and he took to drink. Elsie left Weatherfield for Newcastle, trying to escape Alan and she only returned after her marriage had failed. She landed a job running a lingerie shop and employed young Gail Potter as her assistant and also took her in as a lodger. Mike Baldwin then offered Elsie a job as supervisor at his new denim factory but her meddling (or offering of advice) towards the factory girls and her lodgers Gail and Suzie Birchall didn’t win her any friends and she soon found herself alone once more.

She was forced to take a job in the café, which she felt was beneath her, and one night she almost died when she fell asleep on the sofa, a glass in one hand and a smouldering cigarette in the other.

In 1983 Elsie left Weatherfield for the last time having been reunited with Bill Gregory who was now alone and the proud owner of a bar in Portugal – they agreed on a ‘no strings’ deal to give life together one last shot. Daughter Linda, who was newly divorced, returned to sell the house. New owner Bill Webster turned down her advances and Linda left the Street.

Forthcoming Corrie Tours

Visiting Liam's grave with a past tour
Want to visit the Coronation St set?  Then you need to book onto one of these forthcoming tours - is visiting the UK between 9-19 May from Canada.  The tour, hosted by personality Neville MacKay visits London, Hampton Court, Salisbury, Bath, Cardiff, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester ... and visits Corrie locations and the studios with me. is the grand-daddy of them all.  This is their 22nd year and they are in the UK between 8-20 Sept.  This includes Manchester, Clitheroe, Chester, Skipton plus the studios, dinner with guest and lots of locations.  I will be tour guide for all the English days.  They then go off to Ireland to visit Dublin, Blarney Castle, Killkenny, Kerry, Bunratty, Galway and Connemara.

I also hear there's another group making arrangements out of Vancouver for the end of September and one from New Zealand in early September.  As soon as I have confirmed information I'll let you know.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Corrie Walking Tours

Since I announced the Corrie Walking Tours I've taken several couples and groups of friends on the Corrie heritage trail - so here's a little more about them.

These walks are exclusive to you (I don't do them on set days or at set times and it's just you and me) and include a history of Corrie, Tony Warren, Granada, a bit about how the show is produced and a bit of Manchester history too.  Here's a bit more about what we see:

Part 1: The city centre.  We meet in a city centre hotel and do a two-hour walk around the city centre.  You'll see the building that Hitler wanted to own, the Town Hall, the site where the Suffragette movement was born, the concert hall, trams, the tallest building, the Roman remains, Liz McDonald's pub, the site where Steve and Michelle broke up, where Tony tried to drown Roy Cropper, the studios, site of the original outdoor street set, where the Rovers fire took place, the cast entrance, the oldest passenger station in the world, and much more.  We finish in the Old Grapes, the pub owned by Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth).
You can either end the tour there or go the whole hog and, after a short rest, head off on ...
Part 2: Weatherfield Quays.  We board a tram and cross a few viaducts and arrive after about 10 minutes in the Quays area of Salford - you'll hear about the American star who brought his huge entourage here, see where Leanne plied her wares as a prostitute, where Steve proposed to Karen, where Don Brennan tried to kill Alma, where the first outside filming took place, where the real Coronation St stood.  You'll find out why Canada is so linked to this area, you'll see where Mike Baldwin, Danny and Dev all lived and where the Coronation St studios are moving to.  This takes about another hour or so and I then leave you there to take some lunch, look at the shops, visit the gallery or take the tram back into Manchester.

Bring your cameras too!  This week my party bumped into Mikey North (Gary Windass), last week we met Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin).  You never know who you might see en route!

Everyone in your party receives a free guide book as a souvenir at the end.

The beautiful Castlefield area which
you will see on the tour. 
Picture: Copyright Mark Llewellin
 Please note that we do not enter the studios - it is not possible to visit the street set anymore.
This tour is not authorised by Granada TV or ITV.

Some answers to popular questions:
Can you get me into the studios? No, sorry.  The studios are not open to the public.
Can you guarantee we see a cast member?  No.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to just see someone in the street, sometimes we see no cast members in town at all.
Should I bring a camera? Yes - the city is very picturesque.
Where can I buy Corrie souvenirs?  Individual shops may stock items such as calendars, books etc but there is not a particular souvenir shop.
I'm bringing a large group - can you give us a tour?  The walking tour is aimed at groups of up to 6 people.  I am able to book minibuses or coaches for larger groups and put together an itinerary of outer Manchester locations.
What dates are your tours on?  As explained these walking tours are for your party only so please let me know when you're in town and I'll see if I'm available.  We normally set out at 10.30am and finish at around 2pm.  Email me with possible dates and I'll then advise you of the cost.
Do you give talks on Corrie? Yes.  I am happy to travel anywhere in the UK.
Is the walking tour very easy?  Yes, it's almost all on the flat.  At one point there are some steps but these can be avoided if necessary.
Is it all outside on the walking tour?  Yes, we only go inside at the Old Grapes Pub (as described).  If it's wet just bring a brolly.
I've only watched Corrie for a few years, is the walking tour for me? Yes.  It doesn't matter how long you've watched it for, you'll enjoy it.
My partner doesn't watch Corrie, will they be bored?  I include quite a bit on Manchester and the buildings we pass so it's not all Corrie.
I'm not sure about the walking tour - what else can I do that's Corrie related?  Not a lot!  There's the Corrie! play touring UK until July (visit for more information and a tour date list) which you will enjoy.  You used to be able to see the Corrie set from the Manchester Science and Industry Museum next door but you can't anymore.  They have a very small Corrie exhibit, which will be enlarged to include 'the tram' in due course but that hasn't happened yet.  You might find an ex-Corrie cast member appearing in something at the theatre (google Manchester Theatres for listings info).  That's about it!

Corrie! - a second review of the stage play

Elsie Tanner back on the
cobbles in Corrie!
Jonathan Harvey's stage play Corrie! opened at the Lowry in Salford last summer and I gave it the thumbs up on this site.  Such was the success of the fortnight's run that the play has now embarked on a national tour and the role of narrator is being played by different actors in different towns. (see below).  So what's changed?  Quite a bit actually.  Firstly, the original version was a little too long whereas this new version comes in at just under two hours which is much better.  We now have six actors playing about 55 characters and they do a great job too.  They've also added the tram crash which is very spectacular and done as a silent movie.
Last night, in Liverpool, the Narrator was Ken Morley (Reg Holdsworth).  Now, I have to confess that Reg wasn't one of my favourite Corrie characters but Ken did a great job in play - remember that the Narrator is the actor rather than the character so he played it as Ken rather than Reg.
The strength of this new version is that it is much pacier than the original and you move from very funny scenes to some very touching ones (Hilda coming back from the hospital with Stan's things for example) which work on two levels - the first is that the actors in the play are so good but on a second level we also remember the original on-screen versions of these classic scenes.
It is a must-see and worth travelling for!

The narrators will be: Bromley, Bath, Woking, Birmingham, Nottingham, Darlington, Northampton - Ken Morley / Sheffield, Ipswich, Stoke, Brighton and Hull - Gaynor Faye / Southampton, Cardiff, Bradford, Malvern - Roy Barraclough MBE.
For more info go to

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Corrie Quiz

THE CORRIE QUIZ – how many can you get right?

1. Tony Warren’s first choice of name for the show was inspired by Sleeping Beauty – but what was it?
2. In which year did Betty make her first appearance?
3. Who did Billy Walker plan to marry in 1974?
4. How did Anne Malone die?
5. Alec Gilroy was married twice – to Bet and before her, to Joyce. Who did Joyce leave him for?
6. Alma once had a crush of Stephen Reid – who was he?
7. In 1996 Maxine had an affair with Fiona’s boyfriend – who was he?
8. What was the name of Vicky’s MacDonald’s horse?
9. Why was Vera sacked by Reg after a trolley dash?
10. In 1979 Deirdre thought Tracy was dead – why?
11. Who died pegging out the washing?
12. Her mum was knocked down by a car whilst walking a dog – name the dog..
13. Who was driving the car?
14. How long were Ted and Rita married for?
15. Where was Sally and Kevin’s daughter Rosie born?
16. Who drilled a hole in Reg’s water bed?
17. What was the name of Percy’s budgie?
18. Who did Phyllis Pearce clean for?
19. What did Rita call Mavis’ friend Victor Pendlebury?
20. Who did Maureen marry in 1997?
21. Who bought a baby which eventually died of meningitis?
22. Why did Len give the Kabin to Rita?
23. Who shaved off Kevin Webster’s moustache?
24. Jack and Annie Walker were blackmailed in 1965 – why?
25. What job did Ivy do at Baldwin’s?
26. Which of these people has not appeared in the show – Cliff Richard, Prince Charles or Tony Blair?
27. Which relative of Kens did Mike Baldwin marry?
28. Which actor plays undertaker Archie?
29. Who had a horse-drawn funeral cortege?
30. What was the first name of the Harris dad killed in the garage?
31. Who did Todd Grimshaw practise his kissing on?
32. What is the name of the actress who played Yana Lumb?
33. Which other famous British soap-opera did Ian Reddington (who played Vernon) appear in?
34. Which of these characters is to return to the show later this year? Jim McDonald, Todd Grimshaw or Alec Gilroy?
35. How many actresses have played Blanche Hunt?

Scroll down for the answers.

1. Florizel Street – named after the prince in the story.  2. 1969.  3. Deirdre. 4. She froze to death in a freezer.  5. A footballer.  6. Audrey’s son from Canada.  7. Tony Horrocks.  8. Saracen.  9. She told everyone he’d fixed it for Rita to win because he fancied her.  10. She’d left her in her pram outside the Rovers when a lorry ploughed into it.  11. Judy Mallet.  12. Scamper.  13. Tony Horrocks.  14. Three months.  15. In the back of a taxi.  16. Derek Wilton.  17. Randy.  18. Des Barnes.  19. The Saddleworth Sage.  20. Fred Elliot.  21. The Mallets – from Zoe.  22. He was facing bankruptcy and wanted it in her name.  23. Steph Barnes.  24. They had an under-age barmaid.  25. She was the Supervisor.  26. Tony Blair
27. Daughter – Susan.  28. Roy Hudd.  29. Mike Baldwin  30. Tommy.  31. Nick Platt  32. Jayne Tunnicliffe.  33. EastEnders.  34. Jim and Todd (Alec returns to the Corrie stage show).  35. 2

Monday, 31 January 2011

This Blog Makes Top Ten

I was delighted to have forwarded to me the following, which is atke from the newsletter produced by the Canadian store Blightys.  They'd compiled a list of the top 10 websites (in no particular order) for Canadian Corrie fans.  I'm delighted to find I'm on it - so thank you Blightys (

#6 The Undisputed Expert’s Blog (Spoiler Caution)

Many of Canada’s greatest fans have had the privilege of meeting Mark Llewellin. Mark lives in the UK’s Greater Manchester area but has visited Canada several times. You may have met Mark at Toronto’s British Isles Show or, if you are very fortunate, you have accompanied Mark on one of his tours of Coronation Street’s studios and outside filming locations.

Mark knows Coronation Street almost as well as it’s creator Tony Warren. His many contacts within Granada Studios and among the cast make him a knowledge resource par excellence. He is a freelance tour guide, public speaker, event host, event planner and writer (mainly of books, magazine articles and pantomime scripts). Mark has been a contributor to some of the excellent Corrie fan magazines that have found their way across the great big pond to Canada.

Mark’s blog can be found at: Some of the information on the site could be considered as spoiler material. You might hear about characters or actors who will be joining or leaving the show. Mark’s post of 8th January is an interesting one for Canadians; he talks about the Canadian tours he will be hosting this year.

An excellent blog; every Corrie fan should read it.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Roy Barraclough interview

Roy Barraclough MBE, about to
tread the famous cobbles once more.

.... Talks about his 50 year career

How did you first get the acting bug?
I was about ten years old and my parents had taken me to see a touring production of The Desert Song, which was playing the Royal Hippodrome in Preston, my home town. During the interval I went off to get an ice cream and I came across a door marked ‘private’. I was curious as to what went on behind there so I opened the door and went inside. Here was a world quite unlike the front of house. A stage manager told me to clear off, so off I went with my tail between my legs. But my imagination had been fired. When I got home I built a model theatre.

But you didn’t go onto stage school?
No. I never had any formal training. I studied as a draughtsman. Whilst I was at college I saved up and got a season ticket for the theatre. I also joined a couple of the local amateur societies and acted, played the piano, directed – and, whilst I should have been working – designed scenery.

So, when was your first professional role?
I was about sixteen when I was asked to play a schoolboy in a production at the local theatre. I got paid £4 for the week. However, then there was a long gap until I landed a summer contract as an entertainer at a holiday camp on the Isle of Wight. I then went back to being a draughtsman again. I was desperate to join a repertory company and wrote so many letters of application. In 1962, when I was 27, I finally got a contract with the Nita Valerie Company in Huddersfield. I had many happy years there and then I went to Stoke and then Oldham. Working in rep, you rehearsed one play during the day and performed another at night. A different play every week, that was better than going to drama school.

Most people will know you from television but you’ve always appeared on stage too, haven’t you?
Yes. I always have done, even when I was in Coronation Street, I always insisted on time out to do a stage play each year. That’s why Alec (Gilroy) used to vanish on cruises. I’ve done a whole range – a lot of Arthur Miller, musicals, pantomime of course, more drama than comedy though. Theatre has always been my first love.

What were your first television roles?
Oldham is on the outskirts of Manchester and when Granada Television opened, the casting directors used to come and watch the plays there. Many of us – William Roache, Barbara Knox, Anne Kirkbride – ended up as regulars at Granada. I appeared in some of the early programmes like City 68, Nearest and Dearest and Coronation Street, which I first appeared in around 1964. In 1969 I got my first big role on TV, which was as a regular in Yorkshire TV’s first soap, Castle Haven. Kathy Staff and I played husband and wife. I then starred in a popular children’s series called Pardon My Genie which ran through the early 70s.

You met Les Dawson during that time, didn’t you?
I did. Les had won Opportunity Knocks and had landed his first series at Yorkshire. They had employed an actor to do sketches with him but actors like scripts and Les really liked to make it up as he went along. He didn’t care for rehearsals either. This poor actor walked out on the show and they needed someone to take over – fast! I happened to be on site and they asked me. We got on straight away. He was a lovely man and we worked together for a long time. On screen and on stage. The famous Cissie and Ada sketches came about because we both loved the comedy of Norman Evans and his Over the Garden Wall monologues so when we were bored we used to amuse each other by doing them. The producer overheard us and they got put into the show.

Did you enjoy your Coronation Street years?
Yes, although I always worried about being type-cast. I played quite a few different roles in the show before Alec came along including the man who sold the window-cleaning round to Stan Ogden, a tour guide taking the Rovers regulars on a trip and so on. They brought me in to run a drinking club as they had a story where the Rovers was going to burn down and would therefore be out of use for some time. They then decided to team Bet and Alec up and they then married us off. They always had a struggle to get me to sign a new contract because I was always tempted to go and do something new. So I had breaks every now and again – but if you add it all up, I played Alec across 25 years and from my first Corrie appearance until my last was 34 years.
Do you keep in touch with any of your Corrie co-stars?
Yes, I do – I have a chat with the actors who played Bet, Jack and Vera, Mavis, Betty and Rita now and again. I also have a very close relationship with Chloe, who played my granddaughter Vicky.

So what do you do these days?
Well, I’m very happy to be semi-retired. I’m 76 this year and if you tot it all up, it’s my 50th year in the business so I think I’ve earned a rest. I’m very fortunate in that I’m offered quite a few TV and stage roles but I turn most of them down. It has to be something that really appeals. I did a series called Funland which was set in Blackpool because I loved the scripts, I played the vicar in All the Small Things because it was filmed locally and the rest of the cast were wonderful and it allowed me to work with Sarah Lancashire (Raquel) again. I’ve also played Santa on stage in Southampton, Birmingham and Liverpool over the past few Christmases because the production values of the shows were so good.

And you're about to return to the cobbles - on stage at least.
Yes, Coronation Street has played such a big role in my career and this being my 50th year in the business it seemed like a great way to celebrate by going on tour with the Corrie! stage play by Jonathan Harvey. I’m playing the narrator at Cardiff, Bradford, Southampton and Malvern. I saw the play when it premiered at the Lowry and absolutely loved it. I wasn’t sure how Jonathan was going to get 50 years of stories and characters into a two-hour show but he does it very well indeed. As I sat in the audience I thought then that if it went on tour I’d love to be involved so when they asked it was an instant yes.

For more information on the show go to

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What a Carry On!


In tribute to the showing tonight on BBC4 of 'Hattie' - the story of Hattie Jacques, here are some Carry On facts:
They are considered quintessentially British – the bawdy honour, the innuendo and the host of famous British faces placed in the most daft, and often ludicrous, situations that the Carry On producers could dream up for each film. The films are so familiar – but did you know….?

Carry On Cleo was filmed on the sets that had been created for the Burton and Taylor epic Cleopatra.

One day Charles Hawtry brought his elderly mother to have tea with the cast at Pinewood Studios. Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims joined them and as usual, Hawtry smoked continuously. The pair noticed a long smouldering tip of ash fall from the cigarette into his mother’s open handbag. Sims shouted, “Charles, your mother’s handbag is on fire!” Without batting an eyelid he threw the cup of tea he was holding into the bag, closed it, and continued with his anecdote.

When filming on location for Carry On Cabbie, Sid James was waiting to shoot a scene, sitting in his fake taxi. An elderly lady climbed in, thinking it was real, and asked to be taken to the station. James drove her there and refused the fare.

In Carry On Sergeant there is a scene where the recruits are made to swing across a water filled, muddy pit on a rope. Every time Bob Monkhouse had to do his shot he slid down the rope and into the mud. It later turned out that Williams had coated the rope with a pound of butter!

In Carry on Teacher there is a scene where the children cover the teacher’s clothes in itching powder. Kenneth Connor bribed the wardrobe girl to ensure Kenneth Williams’ powder was the real stuff!

Joan Sims had a long scene in Carry On Regardless where she had to get drunk – they used real wine when they shot it so there’s no acting involved.

When filming Carry On Follow That Camel the cast were taken to Camber Sands to film the desert scenes. The crew had tried to find a stuffed camel but had no luck so a real one was borrowed from the local zoo. Unfortunately it didn’t like sand and they had to lay planks down for it to walk on.

In Carry On Doctor Kenneth Williams has to fall into a bath of ice cubes. The props men carefully carved plastic blocks to look like the ice but Bernard Bresslaw, who was fed up with Williams’ endless pranks, had the bath filled with the real thing.

Charles Hawtry made his own way to the studios by bus. One day he was walking up the long drive to Pinewood when a Rolls Royce stopped and Sir Laurence Olivier climbed out – he was horrified to find Hawtry didn’t have a car so he had his meet him off the bus each morning.

Carry On Camping was filmed under the most appalling conditions – there was so much rain that the field used for the camp site shots was awash with mud. They sprayed it with green paint to look like grass and tied fake leaves to the trees. All the cast were in foul moods and when they were alone they called the director every name under the sun. However, they had forgotten that Barbara Windsor was wearing a microphone and Gerald Thomas played them back his recording the following day!

Kenneth Williams often amused himself by flashing at fellow actors and studio staff. One day he did his party trick to the elderly tea lady who ignored him and continued serving his cuppa. “One lump or two?” she asked. He was furious and replied, “I don’t take any!” to which she quipped: “And from where I’m standing, you ain’t got none either!”

Gerald Thomas is heard in two of the Carry On’s – as a monster in Carry On Screaming and a bird in Carry On Behind.

When Carry On Up The Khyber was released the studios received a complimentary letter from an old soldier who remarked how wonderful it was to see the old Khyber Pass on the big screen – it had brought back so many memories – it was exactly how he recalled it. The film was shot in Wales!

Hattie Jacques described Sid James as having: “The general appearance of an ancient and dissipated walnut.”

In the very first film, Carry On Sergeant, the actors included Dora Bryan (Roz in Last of the Summer Wine) and Bill Owen (Compo).

Carry On Cabbie introduced Amanda Barrie (Corrie’s Alma) who later played the lead in Carry On Cleo.

Barbara Windsor made her Carry On debut in Carry On Spying in 1964. She appeared in just 9 of the 30 films.

Carry On Screaming features Frank Thornton (Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served?).

Carry On Doctor (1967) features Penelope Keith (The Good Life), Brian Wilde (Foggy in Last of the Summer Wine) and comedian Frankie Howerd.

Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) appears in several of the films – notably, Carry On Up The Khyber.

Carry On Again Doctor features Shakira Baksh who went onto become Mrs Michael Caine.

Heartbeat’s Bill Maynard, Dad’s Army’s James Beck and Bill Pertwee and entertainer Kenny Lynch are all in Carry On Loving.

Geoffrey Hughes (Eddie Yates) appears in Carry On at Your Convenience whilst Wendy Richard (Are You Being Served? and EastEnders) is in Carry On Matron, as is Bill Kenwright (Corrie’s Gordon Clegg).

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tony Warren's inspiration?

Pat, Doris and Vi ... did Vi's
singing inspire Tony Warren?
There are all kinds of stories about what might have inspired Tony Warren to come up with the characters in Coronation Street.  I used to know an old actor who claimed he'd paid Tony's train fare from London to Manchester and he'd talked to him about the people he knew back home in Wigan as they waited for the train.  Then, lo and behold, Tony invented Corrie.  Another possible inspiration was the Samuel Laycock poem Bolton's Yard, which is about the back streets of Stalybridge in Cheshire.  This was set to music by Eddie Cotty, a local folk singer and member of the folk group Fivepenny Piece.  Eddie died in 2009 and I was reminded of him today as I passed what used to be his family deli shop.  Anyway, here's a modern translation of Bolton's Yard (it was written in local dialect originally) for you to judge.  One other interesting side to this is that Vi Carson (Ena Sharples) used to sing it, and indeed, sang it to a young Tony Warren.  On his This Is Your Life programme she sang it again and reminded him that it could have inspired him. 

 At number one, in Bolton’s Yard, my granny keeps a school, But hasn’t many scholars yet, there’s only one or two; They say the old woman’s rather cross, - well, well, it may be so; I know she boxed me good one time, and pulled my ears, and all.

 At number two lives widow Burns – she washes clothes for folk; Their Billy, that’s her son, gets jobs at wheeling (transporting) coke (coal);They say she courts with Sam O’Neds, who lives at number three; It may be so, I cannot tell, it matters not to me.

 At number three, right facing the pump, Ned Grimshaw keeps a shop; He has church cakes, and gingerbread, and treacle  beer, and pop; He sells oat-cakes, and all, does Ned, he has both soft and hard; And everybody buys off him that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

 At number four Jack Blunderick lives; he goes to the mill and weaves; And then, on the weekend, when he has time, he pours (drinks) a bit, and shaves; He’s badly off, is Jack, poor lad; He’s rather lame, they say, And his children keep him down a bit; I think they’re nine or ten.

At number five, I live myself, with old Susannah Grimes; But I don’t know that she likes me very well – she turns me out sometimes; And when I’m in, there’s never any light, I have to shower in the dark; I cannot pay my lodging brass (rent), because I’m out of work.

At number six, next door to us, and close to the side of the spout, Old Susie Collins sells more drink, but she’s really always about; But how it is that is the case I’m sure I cannot tell; She happens to make it very sweet, and drinks it all herself.

 At number seven there’s nobody lives, they left it yesterday, The bailiff came and marked their things, and took them all away; They took them in a donkey cart, I know not where they went. I reckon they’ve been taken and sold because they owed some rent.

 At number eight – they’re Yorkshire folk – there’s only the man and wife, I think I’ve never seen nicer folk than these in all my life; You’ll never hear them falling out, like lots of married folk, They always seem good tempered like, and ready with a joke.

At number nine the old cobbler lives – the old chap that mends my shoes. He’s getting very weak and done, he’ll have to leave us soon; He reads his Bible every day, and sings just like a lark, He says he’s practicing for Heaven – he’s really done his work.

 At number ten James Bolton lives, he has the nicest house in the row; He has always plenty of something to eat, and lots of brass, and all; And when he rides and walks about he’s dressed up very fine, But he isn’t half as near to heaven as him at number nine.

At number eleven my uncle lives - I call him uncle Tum, He goes to concerts, up and down, and plays a kettle-drum; In bands of music, and such things, he seems to take a pride, And always makes as big a noise as all of the place beside. At number eleven, my uncle lives - I call him Uncle Tom.

At number twelve, at the end of the row, Joe Stiggins deals in ale; He has sixpenny and fourpenny, dark-colored and pale; But I never touch it, for I know it’s ruined many a bard, I’m the only chap that doesn’t drink that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

And now I’m done, I’ll say goodbye, and leave you for a while; I know I haven’t told my tale in such a first-rate style; But if you’re pleased, I’m satisfied, and ask for no reward; For telling who my neighbors are that live in Bolton’s Yard.