Sunday, 26 February 2012

Coronarchie Street

'When I get driven in from the airport I can see many houses that are much nicer than those on your street,' Granada's chairman, Sidney Bernstein, told the first commissioning producer of Coronation Street, Harry Elton. 'Is this the image of Granadaland that we want to project to the rest of the country?' In 1963 a village debating society in Hayfield, where the Street's creator Tony Warren lived, debated whether 'Coronation Street is a cul de sac'. One speaker blamed the programme for causing unemployment in the north, because its bleak imagery dissuaded businesses from investing in the region; another said it made people believe that 'Northerners were peasant morons'. Harry Kershaw, the programme's executive producer, insisted that the soap was not meant to be a period piece and that there were 'a hell of a lot of Coronation Streets still left – and if we have to wait till the bulldozers knock down the last one, we shall have a pretty long life'.

Actual streets like Coronation Street were being demolished in great numbers in the programme's early days: a common sight in Salford and Hulme in the 1960s was an entire row of houses marked with an X, under sentence of demolition. Granada soon had to build its own street, first in the studio and then outside, there being no suitable ones left near the Granada Studios in Quay Street, Deansgate in which to film exteriors. Archie Street, the real street used in the opening and closing credits of the soap, was the home of Eddie Colman, one of the 'Busby Babes' killed in the Munich air crash of 1958; some of the Man United players, including Bobby Charlton, would go there for tea after training. Nicknamed 'Coronarchie Street' by locals, it was condemned in 1967 in Salford's last great slum clearance scheme and finally demolished in 1971, when Bernard Youens and Jean Alexander, who played Stan and Hilda Ogden in the soap, went along to pay their last respects (in character) ...

I've just published an article in the latest issue of Urban History, called 'Imagining the Street in Post-War Britain', which discusses Coronation Street and other representations of the street in photography, architecture and sociology. If anyone would like a copy, email me and I will send you one.

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