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Happy 50th birthday Corrie

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Will Gompertz | 10:01 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

Here are some snaps from my visit to Coronation Street's famous set taken while making a report for TV news. The soap was originally slated to run for a few weeks, but then took off like one of Jack Duckworth's pigeons and established itself as part of the country's dramatic DNA.

Rovers Return pub on Coronation Street set
Will Gompertz on Coronation Street set

John Betjeman was a fan - he considered it right up there with Dickens - as was (allegedly) Tony Blair. The show has frequently been lauded for picking up where John Osborne's Look Back in Anger left off. And there have been plenty of kitchen sinks, feisty women and flying ducks to entertain all classes for half a century.

The show's magic exists in the three pillars of great drama: brilliant characterisation, jeopardy and gripping story lines. A potent mix made intoxicating when added with a generous dash of dry comic wit.

I spent 15 years of my life watching the show, mainly with my dad, and therefore have far too many nostalgic memories to be able to judge it dispassionately. For me, in my Corrie watching years (1975-1990), it was the best thing on television by a northern mile of cobbled streets.

Alleyway on Coronation Street set

The set visit reminded me of the programme's magic ingredient: it was totally believable. The plies of bricks lying in the street after the tram crash were genuinely piles of bricks. The tools and machinery in Kevin Webster's garage appeared to be fully functioning tools and machinery. You could walk into the houses and they felt like proper houses not a set of fake walls and tactically placed scenery. Sadly The Rovers Return was shut so I didn't get a chance to pull a pint, but the cobbles were real.

Tram crash on Coronation Street set
Will Gompertz on the set of Coronation Street

I agree with Betjeman, Coronation Street is one of the great serialised dramas of our age as were Dickens's Pickwick Papers back in the 19th Century.

Happy Birthday Corrie.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    I do not understand why anyone would want to regularly watch other people's (overly dramatic) lives. I find it incomprehensible. Now, I like a good story with a beginning a middle, and an end - as much as the next person. But I cannot begin to comprehend the interest in any soap. I freely admit that my active dislike of the whole gendre is my fault. The expression 'get a life' seems to sum up my view. (Neither do I 'follow' a sports team of any kind - I can't find any interest in doing so.)

    I will watch, listen to and read self contained dramas including challenging work and those in foreign languages which I have some command, but in which I am not entirely fluent - but I cannot comprehend why anyone would bother with a soap. Now watching say a South American soap in a foreign language to improve you commend of the language has some merit. As does reading foreign languages books and newspapers - both have merit in that they exercise one's command of the foreign language. Dull people, doing dull things!

  • Comment number 3.

    to john-from-hendon.....a bit of a snob aren't you

  • Comment number 4.

    agrees with lambychop

  • Comment number 5.

    It was always well written,and very human. The wry humour used to be very clever too,I am not sure if this has not weakened in recent years. But the most magical part about Corrie were the characters. People could relate to them and feel for them. I have to say that the 'Ladies' were always my favourite characters,especially Ena Sharples played by Violet Carson. The part was a gift but she was a genius to get the character so right. Hard as iron,outspoken,forceful but honest and with a good heart.Deep down as human and caring as anyone. Possibly one of the most memorable British roles on stage or screen.

  • Comment number 6.

    Happy 50th

  • Comment number 7.

    I was interested in the parade of musical stars who were being reported as Corrie fans on Today this morning. Even more interested in the fact that no mention was made of Sir Cliff Richard, who has been a fan since way before it was suddenly so fashionable (and has had a cameo role in an episode, albeit from the back). Don't know what Cliff did to the BBC to make them give him such a cold shoulder.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh but, John_from_Hendon, you should give Corrie a try. I'm sure you'd love Norris.

    You'll be appalled to hear that I sandwiched watching the tram crash in between two episodes of a French language version of War & Peace.

  • Comment number 9.

    As much as we all love to hate Coronation St we still go back to our old faithful in times of need ! There has been some wonderful acting and directing over the years by character actors that have all paid their dues be it on the stage or screen. Watching Norris proudly standin at the medal ceremonies at the commonwealth games all the while thinking that Emily was taping his moment of glory, whilst we the viewer knew this was'nt to be brought tears to my eyes ( not an easy thing knowing Norris' usual personality traits !) believable characters , we all know a Norris, Vera etc....Happy Birthday :)

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder if Wetherfield District Council Building Control know there's no felt on the Kabin roof...

  • Comment number 11.

    You should have worn the hairnet Will!


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