The Changing Way We Watch Television- 'Coronation Street' - My Story

 

I started watching Coronation Street in the early 80’s when I was around 8 or 9 years old. My parents were avid viewers so it was inevitable that I would also become a fan of this gritty Northern soap.

Being born and raised in Manchester was just another reason why I felt a connection to Corrie. I grew up in a two up two down on a street not dissimilar to Coronation Street but without the cobbles! We had a little back yard like Jack and Veras with an entry which separated us from the terraced houses in the next street. The entry was cobbled. The rag and bone man used to make his way down the entry shouting for any bits and pieces. The lady who lived next door still had a coal fire and the coal man used to deliver bags of coal into her backyard. It was all very Northern!

Back then I remember the show aired only twice a week on a Monday and Wednesday evening. If Corrie ended with a cliff hanger on a Wednesday well you just jolly well had to wait until the following Monday to find out what happened next.

And you couldn’t miss it. You had to be at home when it was on or you missed out. And missing the show meant that you wouldn’t be able to join in with the conversations the next day with your friends who were all discussing what had happened the night before. That’s how we watched Coronation Street. It was a social thing. It brought people together, it was a conversation starter and we all had our favourite characters.

When I was around 14 or 15 years old some of my friends and I would finish school in the Whalley Range area of Manchester and jump on the bus down Princess Parkway into town. Getting off in Piccadilly we’d make our way through the City Centre to Granada Television on Quay Street.

Standing at the gates at the bottom of Quay Street you could see a tiny bit of the set, the corner shop. Even that was exciting back then actually knowing that the famous cobbled street was just beyond those big black iron gates.

We’d wait patiently at the gates to hopefully get a glimpse of some of the cast coming in and out and if we were lucky enough and they’d stop to chat we’d get an autograph or a photo with them. Many a time I saw the actors who played Alf Roberts, Ivy Tilsley, Mike Baldwin, Alec Gilroy and the like. It was so exciting and we spent many fun filled hours waiting outside Granada TV!

In 1988 fans of the Street were in for a real thrill when the Granada Studios Tour opened its doors to the public. Of course I had to go. I was 16 years old and this was the ultimate experience. It was amazing having my photo taken outside the Rovers Return, Baldwins Casuals and Alfs Mini Market. Seeing for the first time the places we’d only ever seen on television was fantastic.

If you’re from Manchester and spent a lot of time in the City Centre you would without a doubt at some point see one of the cast going about their daily business. I saw a few of them out and about over the years. Thelma Barlow who played the wonderful Mavis shopping in C&A in the Arndale springs to mind!

My mum used to work in Greggs on King Street which wasn’t too far from Granada TV. She used to come home and tell me which of the cast members had popped in that day to buy their lunch!

Watching Coronation Street continued as normal throughout the 90’s. Watching every episode and discussing it the next day with friends. My friends and I often wrote to our favourite cast members for signed photos and we met up and showed each other the signed cast cards and letters we’d received back. All very exciting to us because we’d had a response from someone off the telly! Wow!

Fast forward to the introduction of the internet and in particularly social media and just the way we watch our tv programmes has changed immensely.

Coronation Street is in our living rooms on a much regular basis these days. 5 episodes a week for our viewing pleasure. No panic if we miss it when its aired as it’s waiting for us on the ITV Hub for when we’re ready to catch up with happenings in Weatherfield.

Social media has completely changed the way we watch Corrie. So much so that if you do miss an episode its wise to avoid Twitter until you’ve seen it as people in their thousands Tweet about the current episode not just after the show has aired but during it too!!!!

And it's not just fellow Coronation Street fans that you can interact with on Twitter, it's the cast members too!

Some of the cast have their own Twitter accounts verified with a blue tick so you know they are the real deal. Many Tweet about the show and fans interact with them. Sometimes refering to them as their character, sometimes as themselves. It's all a bit of fun and it just enhances the experience of watching a television programme. It's become very interactive.

I enjoy using Twitter, I must admit. Hardly a day goes by when I don't Tweet about something or other. I do follow all the Coronation Street cast members. And I do join in when there's a Tweeting frenzy after an episode. It's fun pretending like the characters are real, joining in the banter with everyone else.

So times are changing thanks to the internet and on demand services. The way we watch television is nothing like we've ever experienced before.

Rachel Doyle, January 2017

 

 

 

The Art of Being Bad - Connor McIntyre

 

Pat Phelan was only supposed to appear in Coronation Street for a few short scenes but fast forward a couple of years and Phelan has become one of the most popular baddies ever to walk the famous cobbles.

Connor McIntyre who plays him says 'It all lies in the writing'. That may be so but not everyone could deliver those lines the way Connor does. He's certainly sent shivers down many a spine and made his character the ulmimate baddie in the process. Just his facial expressions alone at times are enough to fill viewers and the poor folk of Weatherfield with dread!

Connor grew up in Toxteth, Liverpool. He attended Dingle Vale School but he admits he seldom went prefering to hang out with friends. This ensured Connor left school with no qualifications.

Through a job creation scheme Connor started working as a Lifeguard at Austin Rawlinson Swimming baths in Speke. He enjoyed his time working there and says he is still friends with some of the people he worked with.

Located in the same place was the St Ambrose Boxing Club which Connor became involved with. He became a Boxing coach and did some boxing himself but he admits it's not something to be involved in unless you have total commitment in the sport.

Later on Connor ended up moving to Plymouth after going to stay with his brother Noel who was in the Royal Navy and stationed there.

Connor spent some time working as a part-time car salesman in Germany travelling back and forth from Plymouth. He found himself selling American cars to US servicemen based in the city of Heidelberg.

It was Plymouth that provided the next turning point in Connors life when he discovered the Barbican Theatre. He went into the Theatre one day and says it was a combination of boredom and inquisitiveness that made him do it. He asked if he could watch the actors rehearse and was thrilled by what he saw. He became involved, made himself available to help out and things just went on from there.

He says he was fascinated and it was like some sort of epiphany. It was like John Lennon seeing Chuck Berry and thinking 'that's a good job'. 'The Barbican Theatre changed my life in an extraordinary direction' he says.

Community theatre productions followed and Connor says he read every book he could find about acting. He says he can't actually remember reading a single book before that!

Connor gained more and more experience on stage and eventually got his equity card which increased his chances of getting more professional work and proved his credentials as an actor.

He had bit parts on television in The Bill, London's Burning and Casualty.

His first big break came in 1999 when he played nurse Terry Harker in the ITV drama 'Always and Everyone'. He worked alongside Martin Shaw, Niamh Cusack, Michael Kitchen, David Harewood and lots of other talented actors. 'That is where I really started to learn' says Connor. The series ran from 1999 to 2002.

Two contrasting series, BBC comedy-drama Drop Dead Gorgeous and Murder City on ITV showed his versatility.

Then in 2003 whilst in the middle of filming 'Murder City' for Granada Connor suffered a heart attack, a Myocardial Infarction. Connor was lucky to find himself in hospital in Manchester within 15 minutes of it happening. It was caused by some debris that had blocked an artery. He does admit he wasn't looking after himself as work was very busy and he had recently lost his parents. Connor saw it as his body telling him to slow down and take it easy for a bit.

Whilst Connor took things a bit easier he thought a lot about a conversation he had with a Plymouth painter called Robert Lenkiewicz while researching a play. Connor says Robert said to him 'you have to make every mark a thought and every thought a clear one'. 'That struck me as strange' said Connor because it's how an actor works.

By the time Connor decided he wanted to try painting Robert had died but he found classes that were run by a pupil of Roberts, Louise Courtnell. 'She is fantastic' said Connor, 'the real deal'.

That led to an access course at Cornwall College and a fine art degree at Plymouth University. Connor did art history for two years as part of his degree. He graduated with a first-class award in 2012. Connor also has a Masters in Art from Plymouth University. He specialises in large-scale abstracts.

Connor has had a very busy 2016 playing Pat Phelan and he has really stirred things up in Weatherfield. Everyone knew Phelan was bad but he has more dimensions to his personality now. He said 'Phelan's a dream to play. His vanity and lack of compassion and empathy are unrelenting. What he'll do for power is incredible'.

Connor has established himself a real Coronation Street favourite. He has over 17,000 followers on Twitter who love to praise his work and berate his character in equal measures.

I think I speak for most Coronation Street fans when I say I'm so glad Connor walked into the Barbican Theatre that day.

In 2016 Connor won the 'Villian of the Year' award at the British Soap Awards and 'Best Bad Boy' at the Inside Soap Awards proving that Pat Phelan really is the character that we all love to hate!