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.