Proud to be Britain’s longest running soap, ITV have decided to give a new lease of life to Coronation Street in the form of a studio move, albeit only two miles down the road at Media City, the hub of television in the North East.
Coronation Street has been a staple of many British households since the first episode aired on 9 December 1960, and, after a run of 53 years and over 8300 episodes, it’s no surprise as to why. While the show itself may appear to transition from one set to the other overnight, the move itself was by no means instant. It has taken builders over two and a half years, and 40,000 bricks, to assemble the new terraced street. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the move was just a case of transporting the cast from one set to another, but it’s far more complicated than that, and it was down to Lynsey Shepard to plan this logistical nightmare.
Coronation Street’s fans are meticulous and the show is inundated with letters if anything is out of place. This meant that Lynsey was certainly under pressure, not only to make the move from one set to another, but to re-assemble the set perfectly. Receiving the call to take on the task in August 2013, she had only five months to prepare, pack, move and unpack every set with a deadline of 6 January 2014. As filming at Media City began on 9 January 2014, Lynsey had made it a complete success. As she told the Liverpool Echo, “I went round photographing each wall, each angle, from a distance and close up…everything has to be so precise especially as it’s in HD now.”
Yet, the new set definitely offered some logistical and artistic challenges. With the new set encompassing a size of over 8 football pitches, Coronation Street could expand. The terraced houses became 30% wider, two and a half feet of extra cobbles increased that iconic street so that cars could finally pass each other, and the Rover’s Return even gained a new window. With larger sets, the set designers had to find ways to assemble all existing props, and add some embellishments, without fans of the show complaining. Set designers even had to ensure that the moss between the cobbles in the Ginnel was authentic. A specialist team was hired by ITV to distress bricks, fill pavement cracks with weeds and peel paint – ultimately a brand new build had to look over a century old. ITV didn’t want to face the same complaints it received at the dawn of colour television where the set suddenly looked so clean it was deemed glamourous.
While the art department were pushed to their limits, those managing the logistics of the move faced two particular items which would test their removal capabilities. The first of which was the ‘Corrie Vine’, a present for the street from Noel Dyson (who played Ida Barlow, mother of long-established character Ken Barlow), after she left the show in 1962. After it briefly went missing in the rubble of an earlier set move, a security guard found and returned a small section of the plant to the cast, who have nurtured it ever since. With an on set mantra of ‘if the plant dies, the street dies’, its survival was mandatory.
The second difficult item was much larger than a pot-plant, it was the 30m high alnus incana tree which sits right outside of Audrey’s salon. The tree had become an integral part of the set; removing it wouldn’t have been inconspicuous. The eventual replacement, which had to be of the exact species, came from Holland weighing over six tones and standing 30m in height. This tree is not only the biggest to ever be replanted in Britain, but is the biggest than can be moved without encountering some extreme logistical problems, but it was all in a days work for the expert removals team at Coronation Street.
The fifth set move for Coronation Street is now complete, with the cast and crew settled into their new ‘home from home’, sets and dressing rooms alike. Here’s to another 53 years for this stalwart of British television.