THE factory gates are open again at Mackintosh Textiles.
Made redundant in 2003 after four BBC1 series, Clocking Off begins a very welcome repeat run on ITV3 at 9pm tonight.
Created by Paul Abbott, the BAFTA-award winning drama set against the backdrop of a Manchester textile factory is not to be missed.
Although some didn’t realise it at first, Paul and the Red Production Company sold the BBC a series of modern Play For Todays.
The stories were surprising and featured the cream of Britain’s acting talent.
Many were to go on to even greater heights, including Ashley Jensen of Extras and Ugly Betty fame.
From the very start in late 1999, I interviewed the stars of Clocking Off and continued to do so year after year until the series was axed.
That included Philip Glenister, who played factory boss Mack, and John Simm, who features – along with the MEN – in tonight’s very first episode.
John plays lorry driver Stuart who returns home after being missing for 13 months and appears to have lost all memory of the intervening period.
Phil and John were later to star together in both Paul Abbott’s State of Play and, of course, Life On Mars.
I remember meeting Christopher Eccleston, who played lad-about-town Jim Calvert, during his lunch break from rehearsals for a West End stage play.
Long before the idea of reviving Doctor Who had been thought of, he said: “Clocking Off is very well-written. It looks at the lives of working class people and is a nod back to the drama I was raised on.
“I don’t think soaps are a realistic depiction of people’s lives. I find the depiction of the working class is patronising and stereotypical. We’ve avoided that in Clocking Off.”
Next week’s second ITV3 episode features Chris alongside Sarah Lancashire as machinist and widowed mother-of-three Yvonne.
Sarah’s three screen children in Clocking Off included a young actress by the name of Tina O’Brien.
“Recently I’ve noticed her in Coronation Street as the new Sarah-Louise. I thought, ‘Gosh, she looks familiar,” said Sarah at the time.
Other cast members included Lesley Sharp, Mark Benton, Jack Deam, Nicola Stephenson, Pam Ferris, Jason Merrells, Christine Tremarco, Hugo Speer, Sophie Okonedo, Siobhan Finneran, Joan Kempson, Marshall Lancaster and David Morrissey.
Award-winning The Street is, in essence, a modern day version of Clocking Off, a series fondly remembered by all who saw it.
To celebrate its return – at least in repeat form – I thought it might be fun to post one of those many Clocking Off features online.
The below was originally published in the MEN on April 2 2001:
CLOCKING Off star Philip Glenister knows he should have realised earlier. But it took quite a while for the penny to drop.
Arsenal supporter Phil is back tonight as factory owner Mack in an unmissable second series of Manchester’s Clocking Off (9pm BBC1).
He confesses: ”I’d never realised that the Red Production Company, which makes Clocking Off, is named because executive producer Nicola Shindler is a massive Manchester United fan.
”So at the end of last year I was like, ‘You mean I’m working for a subsidiary of Man Utd? This is shocking!’ That’s why they’ve cut my part down, I’m sure,” he laughs.
While Red isn’t, actually, linked to Old Trafford, it does have a team of champions responsible for title-winning successes like Queer As Folk and Clocking Off.
Thankfully, the new series is every bit as good as the first, even if BBC1 bosses got cold feet about screening the drama in its natural Sunday night home, where ITV currently reigns supreme
Take tonight’s story, the first of seven. Factory worker Kev, played by Jack Deam – Phil Simmonds in Coronation Street – lives in Urmston with hairdresser girlfriend Babs, played by City Central’s Ashley Jensen.
Kev leads a fairly uncomplicated life, until he gets nosy about a workmate who has moved in across the street.
”It was fascinating because it opens your eyes to how ordinary and unthreatening evil people can be,” explains Jack.
”They’re working beside you, living across the road, and you’d never guess. He has to come to terms with the enormity of what’s going on and his powerlessness to deal with it.”
‘Next week’s episode features ex-EastEnder Lindsey Coulson, who played Albert Square’s Carol Jackson.
She plays Bev, who also works at the textiles factory, in another highly entertaining, but thought-provoking drama.
London-based Lindsey moved into Didsbury digs while shooting her episode about a woman intent on seducing her way out of a rundown terraced street.
Filming on location left an impression.”Poverty is poverty, but up north it seems very bleak,” she says.
”You do worry about the children. You come home and think – what chance have they?
“Some of the children look grey. We were filming late and they would all be up, even tiny ones. It’s quite despairing in that way.”
Other new faces this series include Joan Kempson – better known as Corrie cleaner Edna Miller – playing Mackintosh Textiles worker Joan, Ricky Tomlinson as truck driver Ronnie, and ex-Weatherfield hairdresser Denise Black as home help Trish.
Manchester’s Lesley Sharp also returns as Trudy, the secretary who could probably run the factory without her boss.
”Everyone thinks that, for Trudy, the last series was about her relationship with Mack,” says Lesley.
”But I think it was much more concerned with her exploring her feelings about herself.”
Fans of the show will be pleased to hear that Trudy has found a man in this new series – and it isn’t Mack, who gets his big storyline in the final episode.
Vanity Fair, Roger Roger and Hornblower star Philip also lives in London – but spends much of his time in Manchester.
”I did a series called My Wonderful Life, which was also shot here, so most of my acting career has been based in Manchester.
“I know I couldn’t run a business like Mack does – it’s a lonely, 24-hour-a-day job that never allows you to drop your responsibility or authority.”
‘Philip admits he’s getting concerned after playing a series of characters who lose out in love – most recently as a wronged husband in ITV’s The Hunt.’
‘We’re filming a third series of Clocking Off later this year,” says Philip, “and I’ve said to the producer I definitely want to get the girl in this one!”
Clocking Off Episode Guide
Red Production Company
Play For Today
Philip Glenister Official Site