Gritty sagas by Corrie blog editor Glenda Young, published by Headline. Click pic below!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Coronation Street night at the BFI

Picture courtesy of Ian Wylie – read his TV blog here.

Now then, how do you like to watch Coronation Street? Sitting on your sofa with a cuppa and a biscuit? Perhaps with some friends? How about sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of other Corrie fans with an introduction given by Corrie creator, Mr Tony Warren. Well, that’s how I watched Coronation Street last night, at a very special event at the British Film Institute in London. It’s the second time I’ve been to a Corrie screening at the BFI – you can read about the first time here – but this time was just that little bit more special for Corrie’s Golden year.

After a montage of classic Coronation Street clips, Tony Warren took to the stage to a round of applause before giving us all a warm and humourous introduction to the show that they’d said could never be made. And now, 50 years later, we took a look back at Corrie’s first three episodes. In the second episode, when the triumvirate of Ena, Minnie and Martha were discussing death over a glass of stout in the snug, most of us in the audience spoke along with the words we all know so well: “I want to go just like me mother. She sat up, broke wind, and died.“

After the three episodes were screened, it was time to hit the bar and catch up on soapy gossip with our pal Ian who runs The Soap Show website.  We’d earlier bumped into and said hello to the lovely people who run the official ITV Corrie website too.

After a quick glass of stout in the bar, it was time to return to the screening room for a Q&A session hosted by The Guardian journalist Mark Lawson. The panel included Tony Warren, Corrie Producer Phil Collinson, Corrie Executive Producer Kieran Roberts and cast members David Neilson (Roy) and Kym Marsh (Michelle).

The panel kicked off discussing Jack Duckworth’s death earlier this week, with Phil saying that when the idea of bringing back Vera was first mooted at a storyline conference, the whole room went unusually quiet for a few seconds while this wonderful idea sank in with everyone around the table. They knew it was the right thing to do bringing back Vera, because when Jack Duckworth died, he wouldn’t die alone, it would be Jack and Vera forever, together in death as they had been in life.

Each panel member then picked their most favourite scene from Corrie’s past and there was a little discussion about each. We started with Tony Warren’s favourite scene which was Ena Sharples’ first appearance in the very first episode, the one where she goes into the corner shop and demands cream cakes, but no ├ęclairs. Tony shared his memories of casting Ena in that role and said that over 60 actresses were auditioned including one woman who turned up at the reception at Granada studios, to find herself having a script shoved in her hand and told to get herself to filming. “Well that’s all well and good,” she said. “But I’m only here to visit my daughter!”. When Violet Carson was finally cast as Ena, producer Harry Elton said to Tony: “But what are we going to do with that face?” Well, that face, said Tony Warren, ended up on the cover of Variety magazine in New York with the tag-line: “The second best known lady in England.”

Phil Collinson’s favourite scene was Hilda Ogden with Stan’s glasses after he’d passed away. This one always gets me, too. He said he’d grown up with Corrie and was a lifelong fan.

David Neilson (Roy) chose one of his own scenes, the one where Roy tries to creep out of the Barlow household as they busy themselves with breakfast after he spends the night in Tracy’s bed when she slips him a date-rape drug. David said he loved this scene because it involved Roy in so many emotions, the shame of what he’d done eventually leading up to Roy to try to commit suicide. Interestingly, he also added that the Barlow breakfast scene was supposed to have had Blanche involved in it too but actress Maggie Jones had been ill at the time.

Kym Marsh (Michelle) chose the scene of Natalie being slapped by Sally after Kevin’s affair. Again, another favourite of mine! And Keiran Robert’s favourite scene was Gail Platt and Richard Hillman with the infamous line from Gail: “You’re Norman Bates with a briefcase!”

The conversation then ranged from Corrie stories always being character-led, never story-led, through to how fans often get their favourite character confused with the actor (this, I have *never* understood). David Neilson said he avoids certain places to avoid the worst of it, but admits it does happen. He said he once came out of a newsagent to find two workmen digging a hole in the ground and when they saw David, they started on at him about Hayley and Roy and it was all “phoar” this and “is it really a man?” that etc. David said he didn’t quite how to respond so all he said was: “I don’t want to have this conversation” and the two workmen just said “Ok” and carried on digging their hole. This little anecdote got a big laugh from the audience.

Questions were then taken from the audience with the first one asking if Corrie ever looked over its shoulder to see what was happening in EastEnders. After the E word was mentioned in that room, some gentle booing ensued (!) and Keiran Roberts said that he does, of course, taken an interest in other soaps, but that Corrie is very different from EastEnders.

Story leaks to the press were discussed with Phil Collinson saying this was investable and frustrating. His actual words were: “Yes, there are people who are selling the stories.” This makes me so angry to know that there are people lucky enough to have a job working on the best TV show in history, a cultural icon of a programme like Coronation Street and then they go and sell their stories for a couple of quid to the tabloids. Grrr.

Kym Marsh was asked which current or past Corrie character she would have loved to have played. Her answer, of course, was Elsie Tanner. I mean, no-one’s likely to say Janice Battersby, are they?

David Neilson was asked if he’s ever allowed to improvise scenes, such as the ones between Roy and Hayley. He said that actors have to respect the writer’s work and that the dialogue is so good anyway, that there’s never any need to improvise. Speaking of Hayley, David said that she was originally brought into the programme as a passing love interest, just one of the first in a series of doomed romances for Roy. Thank heavens she’s stayed, she’s one of Corrie’s best!

Further questions involved changes to schedules, with Keiran Roberts saying he hated it when Corrie had to be moved for the football but understood why it had to happen. Favourite Battleaxes were named by the panel – Ena, Hilda and Blanche and then with a round of applause it was nearly all over.

The final bit before the panel left the stage was a presentation by Mark Lawson of a copy of the very first Corrie script, which he handed to Tony Warren. It was a touching moment and a fitting end to a wonderful evening. Thank you BFI, thank you Tony Warren. Thank you, thank you Coronation Street.


Adam said...

Brilliant post! I was lucky enough to have tickets for the first part of the evening where the first three episodes were shown. It was a wonderful moment when the "Granada from the North" caption appeared on the big screen and the theme music started. It was wonderful to see Tony Warren in person - it made the evening extra special.

Thank you too to this blog as I would never have found out about the evening had I not read about it on here!

Glenda Young said...

Adam, that's great news, thank you.

John Tomlinson said...

I was there too and during the screening of the first three episodes was astonished to find myself a seat away from David Neilson at the back of the room with no one sat between us. Feeling a bit foolish to sit there and say nothing but personally disliking the way in which some people address actors as the characters they play, I introduced myself to "Mr Neilson" and said how much I'd really enjoyed his work on the programme over the years. He was extremely friendly and gracious and said that he'd only ever seen the first of the three episodes before and was looking forward to seeing the rest. As the screenings started a moment later I didn't interrupt the screenings with any daft comments but just left him to enjoy them in peace with the rest of us.

Several more things came across for me. One is the way in which the incredible and widespread love for the programme was demonstrated. The auditorium (seating 500?) was packed with people who applauded like mad and made suitable noises of recognition when famous characters like Ena, Annie and Ken appeared on screen. The audience was of all ages from students to gents dressed in city suits and showed that the reach and appeal of the programme is all-encompassing in both age and region. Bearing in mind that a huge part of the internet traffic on chat rooms about the show seems to be from the same, small band of enthusiastic people and a lot of people in Canada, it was quite a surprise to see the vociferous and dedicated passion in the room. I couldn't help but think, "My God, if Network saw this lot, they'd be rush-releasing one DVD set after the other."

A terrific evening that left me on a real high.

Martin Rosen said...

I was there as well, for both parts (after finding my way to the NFT - how do people from out of London find it, as a Londoner I found it difficult to find!).

It was a really enjoyable evening. I think the biggest cheer from the audience was during the montage. The scene where Stan Ogden asked Hilda what "that smell" was. Hilda replied ........ no I don't need to repeat it, but the place just collapsed into laughter and cheer.

Can I book my place for 2060 now?! Oh gosh, I will be ..gulp!!

DavidS said...

Another attendee here - I attended the event with my girlfriend. Whilst I'm a lifetime Corrie nut, she in truth is more of a fan of that "E-word", but she greatly enjoyed the BBC Four drama the other month and so was really interested to see the original episodes and hear Tony Warren speak about them, as of course was I.

And John, above, I believe we were sat just on the other side of you - I was quite jealous that you got to chat to David informally; I'd have had to say hello too if I'd have been in your seat!

As to the three episodes, they really whetted my appetite to see the rest of Tony's original 13. As far as I'm aware there isn't a current DVD release of all of them together - although I remember the old Granada Plus channel repeating them over Christmas around ten or so years ago - but I think it would be an inspired idea for, say, BBC Four to run them every night in the run up to Corrie's birthday. I assume their schedule for that period will have been set in stone some time ago though.

John Tomlinson said...


Would love to have spoken to more Corrie fans on the night - wished you'd been sat right next to me on t'other side and we could have had an old chinwag.

One thing though - although Tony Warren corrected Phil Collinson and said he wrote the first 13 episodes, Phil was right and it was the first 12. The great H.V. Kershaw wrote episodes 13 to 16 and his credit is there on the eps and in TV Times.

Agree with you about repeating them though (try and get a cheap copy of "Coronation Street - the Early Years" on VHS from ebay or a similar source - that has the first 12 eps on it).

Anonymous said...

Myself and 2 friends were also there for both parts and had a fab evening .I was the person who asked Kym Marsh the question !! I'm a big corrie fan but an even bigger Kym Marsh fan so was nice to have a quick chat to her later , also had the privalidge of meeting David Neilson , such a nice chap , so myself and 2 friends left really happy bunnies , lol x

corrierules said...

Sounds like a wonderful evening. Thank you for this terrific post. But the video clip is no longer available on Youtube :(


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