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

Monday, 28 May 2018

Fan review: The new Coronation Street Tour #CorrieTour (Part 2 of 2)

Our friend Paul Lanagan at @CorrieArt writes a two-part blog post for us here at the Coronation Street Blog about his recent visit to the new Coronation Street Tour. Paul was one of the first fans to visit the new Corrie Tour, and he was also one the last fan to visit the old Corrie Tour at Quay Street.

Here we go with Part Two of Paul's blog post where he tells us all about being one of the first fans at the new Corrie Tour at Trafford Wharf.

Have you found this art work? Paul lost it on a Manchester tram.
Please contact @CorrieArt if you find it.

The original Coronation Street Tour at Quay Street had been a great success with 32,759 tours enjoyed by an estimated 980,000 visitors. It was claimed that the tours contributed £60 million into the local economy and I can well believe that having visited many times myself. 

But when the tours came to an end on New Year's Eve 2015, fans lamented the closing of the attraction and lusted after access to the new MediaCityUK Corrie lot and its hallowed cobbles behind the confines of a large security fence and security guards to boot. 

Rumours emerged in February 2018 that a new Corrie Tour would be launched in the late spring when planning documents for the attraction were shared on our blog. Planning consent was given two months later and as the news spread, excitement built online about Continuum Attractions and ITV’s newest collaboration.

Tickets finally went on sale on Thursday May 3rd. I visited the website early in the morning and intended to book tickets for the first tour later in the month.  Having been the last ever visitor on the old Corrie Tour at Quay Street, it felt right to be on Tour No. 1 at MediaCityUK, however the website soon crashed due to the high demand - so I had to be patient. 

I paid £35 online for a ticket and booked a room at a hotel close to the Corrie Tour attraction. Plus, there were travel costs of £35. A fortune but to any Corrie fan this is a small price to pay for the chance to visit Britain’s most famous street.

Alternatively, National Holidays are offering a package which includes a ticket to the set, an overnight stay in a decent hotel - with dinner and breakfast included - and an excursion to Liverpool, all for £99.  If you're interested in learning more, here's the link.

Coronation Street and trams have a bad connotation when linked together: villainous Alan Bradley met his match with a Blackpool tram when he was attacking Rita Fairclough in 1989 and of course who could forget those astonishing scenes of a tram crashing off the viaduct into poor Mollie Dobbs and the Corner Shop in 2010?  So I should have known better and been on guard when aboard a tram bound for Eccles. 

I was on my way to MediaCityUK for the new tour, laden with luggage and a pack of specially created artwork to celebrate the occasion.  As I hopped off the tram full of excitement, I watched it trundle away with a toot-toot.... and my Corrie art! I didn't realise this of course, until much later, when I was sat in my hotel room and about to watch Friday's episodes of Coronation Street.  I raced back to the tram station but it was too late; the tram had just returned from Eccles and disappeared into the distance, bustling with hundreds of concert goers off for an evening with Ed Sheeran at the Etihad Stadium. I was furious with myself and disappointed that I wouldn’t get to share my special artwork with the guests on Tour No. 1 (I wonder where it is now).

The new Corrie Tour starts at ‘TheStudios from dock10’ - a quirky and grammatically incorrect title for a building - where visitors gather at their allotted pre-purchased ticket time.  Accompanying the Corrie Tour desk and pop-up gift shop is a small cafe plus a miniature frontage of the Rovers Return which has been inside the building for years along with a TARDIS and EastEnders panorama plus Arthur’s bench.  Enough TV icons to get your pulse racing ahead of the tour!

At 9am, on Friday May 25th 2018, Coronation Street Tour No. 1 finally got underway after a few snags (a radio pack wasn’t working) and thirty visitors were enthusiastically welcomed to the attraction by Alexis who gave us all a decorative lanyard, a complimentary souvenir map and a brief explanation of the rules of the tour.  

We were then led out the building and walked for several minutes across the MediaCity footbridge over the Manchester Shipping Canal and were greeted with the familiar outline of the Coronation Street studios adorned with an illuminated ‘ITV’ logo and a huge metallic version of the iconic Coronation Street sign.  We waited patiently at the security turnstile like in a scene from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, but there was no sign of Willy Wonka or Oompa Loompas, only two friendly security guards who checked our ticket receipts before ushering us into those hallowed grounds that we’d all wanted access to for years.

The group skirted around the edge of Studio 1 and paused next to the back of Mawdsley Street, which is in fact a shell, a facade, held up by huge girders.  Alexis pointed out Studio 2 which was re-named the ‘Tony Warren Building’ in 2014 in honour of Corrie’s creator who sadly passed away on March 1st 2016.  Alexis said that a welcome sight to the cast were the crew who provided the big coats and umbrellas for when they transitioned from the studio to the outdoor lot, particularly during bad weather.  This was just one snippet of countless pieces of Corrie trivia that guests were treated to throughout the tour; Alexis certainly knew her stuff and had in fact worked on the original Quay Street tour back in 2014 and 2015!

Guests were shepherded onto Viaduct Street and their first glimpses of Weatherfield as the Kabin and Viaduct Bistro came into view.  We were then taken on a guided tour around the various Coronation Street properties before being given limited access to the ginnel and world beyond the illogical Rosamund Street arch.  Time was tight and we kept to the schedule with ample photo opportunities around the set.  Visitors were allowed to take their own selfies outside the doors of the Rovers while an official photographer was also on hand to capture the special moment.  Ordinarily these photographs are available to buy from the Corrie Tour gift shop, however Continuum Attractions was kindly giving them away for free in commemoration of the new tours.

The new Coronation Street lot, which was built in 2013, is a faithful recreation of the Quay Street version but is considerably bigger having been built to full scale - the original was strangely built to a scale smaller than reality.  Two cars can now drive safely down the Street and unlike on the previous tour, the set featured several parked cars dotted around making it all feel very realistic!  

The lot is home to more than 54,000 cobbles but more importantly the newly added Victoria Street extension saw 7,000 hallowed cobbles from the Quay Street lot re-claimed and added to the site!  Alexis showed us the point where they had been laid next to the new Weatherfield North tram station, which incidentally features the original door handles from the old Rovers Return (these had been safely removed around the time of the fire started by Karl Munro in 2013).

Indeed a highlight of the trip was this new Victoria Street extension, which was unveiled in March 2018 and first appeared on screen on April 20th 2018.  We were the first public visitors to be allowed on the site and were kindly given a longer stint than usual to explore the nooks and crannies – plus the new ginnel where Zeedan recently beat up Rana and Kate’s homophobic attacker.  Much of these features had been revealed during the media event for the set extension, however I noticed one thing not mentioned: the inclusion of Redbank Apartments, a converted block of flats next door to Victoria Court.  It looked less salubrious and I wonder what category of resident would live there – probably a Rovers drinker and not the Bistro type!

Alexis pointed out the looming facade of Weatherfield Police Station which was tucked away behind Redbank Apartments and visible to the public on Trafford Wharf Road in the real world.  The police station, while physically located behind Victoria Street, is in fact meant to be located some two miles away, in wider Weatherfield, a reminder that this indeed is a filming lot and not a set of real streets.  Set designers had carefully hidden the police station from view using a newly added covered parking lot for the exclusive use of “Victoria Court residents only”.  

While the group spread out down Victoria Street, I took the opportunity to chat to a familiar face on the tour and it turned out that the lady, Sue Merry, had also visited the old Corrie Tour at Quay Street back in December 2015 when I was there.  Sue, who had travelled especially from rural Devon for Tour No. 1, said: “I was born in 1959 and grew up with Coronation Street in black and white.  Everything stopped for Corrie, a tradition I have carried on in my house.  Woe betide anyone who talks through Corrie or phones me when it’s on!”  Sue went on to say that she had hoped she would get to see the interior sets and meet some of Weatherfield’s famous faces on the tour.  Sadly none were to be seen today, but who knows what the future holds for subsequent visitors.

A poignant part of the visit was getting to see the Victoria Street community garden which features a memorial bench to the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bombing including Corrie super-fan Martyn Hett.  This area was thankfully closed off to visitors with a sign saying “Dressed set. No entry” which would help to protect the delicate features of the garden and its real blossoming plants.

Another visitor, Amy Benton, from Birmingham, was impressed with the new additions to the Corrie lot and told me: “It’s nice to see the new part of Victoria Street. It was a lovely touch by Coronation Street to add in the dedication to the 22 in the Urban Garden!  It is a really beautiful addition to the set which has so much detail.” 

Before we all knew it, time had run out and visitors were guided off Victoria Street past the new Weatherfield Co-Op store.  We emerged into the staff car park alongside the main studio entrance (the one where the fans gather at the gate) and took the sad walk back to the security turnstile.  All in all we had been in Weatherfield for 60 minutes with the whole experience having lasted around 90 minutes.

I caught up later with tour guide Alexis and she said: "I used to work on the Quay Street tour but this one is far more exciting. There's a different atmosphere here. The old one had a finality to it; it was the end of an era with Christmas decorations left up from when the production teams moved out. The new tour is fresh, modern and more alive.  Visitors will really enjoy it!"

And enjoy it we did.  I look forward to making return visits to the Coronation Street Tour and I hope that at no point will I be vying to be the last ever visitor! Long may the tours continue!


National Holidays are offering a package which includes a ticket to the Coronation Street set, an overnight stay in a hotel - with dinner and breakfast included - and an excursion to Liverpool, all from £99.  If you're interested in learning more, here's the link.

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1 comment:

Arnie said...

This is a must for any corrie fan. I traveled with my partner on National Holidays and for £99 you cant go wrong. The extended set with the tram/train station Co-Op and Costa its well worth the money. The tour lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes and you have ample to get plenty of photos. With it being a 'Live' set you cant get to wonder in Gails garden or pop into The Rovers but.... To walk down those cobbles knowing who has walked down them previously is a great feeling and the memories will last forever.


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