Coronation Street makes the move to MediaCity

Coronation Street cast members in their new 'home', left to right, Michelle Keegan (Tina McIntyre),

Coronation Street cast members in their new 'home', left to right, Michelle Keegan (Tina McIntyre), Brooke Vincent (Sophie Webster), Alison King (Carla Connor), Kym Marsh (Michelle Connor), Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald), Andrew Whyment (Kirk Sutherland), Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts), Samia Ghadie (Maria Connor), Chris Gascoyne (Peter Barlow), Marc Baylis (Rob Donovan), Paula Lane (Kylie Platt) and Jane Danson (Leanne Tilsley). - Credit: Archant

Coronation Street’s many Cheshire-based cast members will soon have a new commute, as the soap opera moves from Manchester city centre Quay Street to a new docklands set. We strolled the new cobbles

The Rovers Return at Coronation Street's new set.

The Rovers Return at Coronation Street's new set. - Credit: Archant

It’s no surprise to find that, with such a meticulous owner, Roy’s Rolls has a sign in the window boasting a five-star hygiene rating.

The famous cobbles being laid at Coronation Street's new set.

The famous cobbles being laid at Coronation Street's new set. - Credit: Archant

Hmm. That’s one star better than the Rovers Return. A dodgy hotpot, perhaps? Maybe you’d be better off grabbing a kebab from the garish-looking Prima Doner, or a chippie tea from For Your Fries Only.

Down the cobbles, I’m browsing the menu outside Nick’s Bistro - butternut squash and broad bean risotto, mixed Lancashire tapas, crab and chorizo linguine - and I’m struck by two things. Firstly, there are an awful lot of places to eat in Coronation Street. And, secondly, this imaginary world - created from scratch on the Trafford side of the Manchester Ship Canal - is wonderfully detailed, right down to the graffiti scratched into the metal shutters of Kevin Webster’s garage and the wacky ads on the noticeboard outside Rita’s Kabin (‘For sale - turkey, partially eaten, only eight days old’)

The brickwork is expertly weathered, the ‘new’ road signs are rusty and even the freshly-installed stone cladding on what was Jack and Vera Duckworth’s home is as hideous and shabby as if it’s mouldered there for decades.

From January, when filming moves there, this new Street will be home from home for the cast, many of whom live in Cheshire, including Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop), Helen Worth (Gail Platt), Sally Dynevor (Sally Webster), Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald), Samia Ghadie (Maria Connor) and Michael LeVell (Kevin Webster).

‘Right now there are two complete parallel Coronation Streets,’ says Kieran Roberts, the programme’s executive producer, who lives in Didsbury. ‘It’s slightly weird because I’m standing here today and I keep thinking: “Am I in Trafford or am I in Manchester?”. Because they are so identical.’

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What differences there are between the old set in Quay Street and the new one in docklands will probably go unnoticed by viewers, with the possible exception of the extra upstairs window on the Rovers Return.

‘We’ve added extra windows here and there, we’ve widened some of the doorways, we’ve also subtly changed some of the dimensions to get closer to proper architectural principles,’ says Kieran. ‘We’ve widened the street by about a couple of feet so we can have two cars driving in opposite directions safely, and we can get a fire engine round the corner. We always need fire engines in Coronation Street.’

Architect Jenkins Design, of Bury, enlisted Lancashire Brick and Tile, of Bolton, to source 30 different types of facing brick needed the recreate the set. Some were reclaimed from demolished homes, some had to be made from scratch because the factory which originally produced them had closed.

The result is a recreation of a fictional place which is in turn a depiction of a disappearing world. In real-life Salford, cobbled streets and thriving backstreet boozers seem to belong to a bygone age. A meat pie’s throw away across the ship canal, Salford Quays is all media luvvies, sprauncy eateries and waterside living.

Here in Weatherfield, there is just a glimmer of that cosmopolitan lifestyle in the wood-cladded Victoria Court flats and the baked swordfish Siciliana on the menu at Nick’s Bistro. But the cobbles and the hotpot live on.

‘It is fair to say that this is the biggest event and the biggest change in Coronation Street’s history,’ says Kieran Roberts, dismissing mischievous suggestions that filming of Corrie will henceforth be interrupted by the cries of seagulls on the ship canal. ‘Coronation Street has had a wonderful 53 years history in Quay Street. I believe it will have another 53 years at least here.’

Corrie facts

*The new lot is the work of 60 organisations and 3,000 people, and stands on a 7.7-acre site next to the Imperial War Museum North, and across the Manchester Ship Canal from MediaCity.

* A total of 54,000 cobbles have been laid, reclaimed from Salford and the canalside at Eccles.

* The set has finally been scaled up to nearly life-size, and Coronation Street itself is over two feet wider, allowing two cars to pass each other.

*The original ‘Coronation Street’ in 1960 was based on Archie Street, Ordsall - discovered by series creator Tony Warren as he and designer Denis Parkin drove around Salford.

*The new set is the fifth incarnation of Coronation Street, the first being a three-quarter scale set built inside Studio 2 at the Granada Studios in Quay Street, Manchester.

*The first outdoor set in 1967 was the wooden studio set - facades with no roofs or backs - attached to scaffolding.

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