IT was quite a day at the reveal of the new Coronation Street set at Trafford Wharf.
The exterior lot has been upscaled and the Street itself is now wide enough for two cars to pass.
But otherwise it looks exactly the same as the current set at Quay Street in Manchester.
Where the final scene will be filmed just before Christmas.
With cast, crew and production team starting work at Trafford Wharf / Media City UK early in January 2014.
Coronation Street creator Tony Warren was, of course, on the new (but old) cobbles at Trafford Wharf on Friday.
I asked him to describe his feelings about the move.
And received a classic Tony Warren reply:
“Coronation Street hasn’t moved at all. It’s exactly where it always was.
“Which is wherever you want it to be inside your own imagination.”
The new set is the fifth in the 53 year history of the Street and takes over from the Quay Street lot which opened in 1982.
“I’m the only person here today who has been in four times to see the brand new set installed,” pointed out Tony.
I asked him what his initial impression had been the first time he visited the Trafford Wharf set.
He laughed: “Well, if it looked any different there would be something very wrong!”
Was he sad in any way about leaving Quay Street?
“What’s to be sad about? It’s still here. Move? What move?”
And he recalled what Trafford Wharf by the Manchester Ship Canal had been like in the early 1960s when Coronation Street first came to the screen.
“The docks were still going in a big way. The street leading down through Trafford Road was known as the Barbary Coast because it was ships and sailors and lascars (Indian sailors).
“And there were cafes that were run by Maltese and then there were the ladies of the night on Trafford Road. It was a very different area.”
As the rain started to fall, someone else asked Tony if he was proud that all those years later ITV had invested in everything that now stood around us.
“I’m just very fortunate. Very, very, very fortunate.
“I’m the luckiest man I know.”
All involved deserve huge praise for the painstaking re-creation of Weatherfield, right down to the last door scratch.
It’s a staggering achievement.
This is the rather moving video celebrating Coronation Street’s long and glorious history that we were shown just before seeing the new Weatherfield for the first time.
I’m sure I’m not the only one of a certain age who had a tear or two in their eyes as this beautifully edited film unfolded.
So many memories from both the cobbles and our own lives as we watched through the decades.
Also knowing that life on this very special street will continue long after we have departed to the Red Rec in the sky.
Followed by the moment executive producer Kieran Roberts revealed the new set to the media.
A very short video taken on my phone, so not the greatest quality – but a historic moment worth recording all the same:
Kieran and I later took shelter from the Weatherfield rain at the bus stop by Audrey’s Salon.
“We are bringing over lots and lots of details,” he explained.
“The lot has been completely rebuilt and at the moment in the end of November and through December there will be two parallel universes – one in Trafford and one in the centre of Manchester.
“It’s quite strange standing here and suddenly thinking, ‘Am I in Quay Street or am I in Trafford?’
“But obviously the old lot, after we finish around Christmas…we will strip everything from the old lot that we can move.
“We can’t be spending money on duplicating things.
“So lots of the dressing of the Street, things like the neon lights and the signs and the boards and things that go around it, we will move and we’ll bring over here.
“But substantially, everything you see here has been completely rebuilt and we’re still filming on the old set for several more weeks.”
The Coronation Street team has built up an extra bank of episodes so they are now even further ahead than normal in their filming schedule.
“It’s been an extraordinary year for us and an amazing achievement by the project team to get this new lot done.
“But also an amazing achievement by the programme team to get involved in the planning of this and also we’ve made two extra weeks of episodes in the course of this year.
“What it does mean is when we start working here in January we don’t have to start at 100 per cent full speed. We can just have a week or two to get up to speed.
“Which I think we’ll need because of simple things like finding our way round – the journey from the dressing room to set will be a different journey and people are going to take a day or two to get used to it.
“Even coming from home to the new studio.
“So we factored all that in and we have extra episodes on the shelf.”
The first official day back is January 6 2014.
“Although I should stress there will be people working over the Christmas period, moving sets, moving equipment and all of the rest of it, getting us ready.
“And we expect to be back in production that first week. But we don’t have details yet. We don’t have a schedule.”
Has it been decided who will film the final scene at Quay Street?
“To be honest, we’re just scheduling the programme in the way we always do.
“Obviously it will be a momentous occasion when we do the last scene on the old set.
“I don’t know what it is. They’re just finalising the schedules for that block because we’ve still got three weeks of production. So that block doesn’t quite start yet.”
I then asked Kieran for his personal feelings about the move.
“It’s a huge milestone.
“Coronation Street has seen so many changes over its 53 year history – two episodes to three to four to five, black and white to colour to wide screen, to high definition, the building of the modern houses.
“There has actually been several different versions of the Street. So it’s been constantly a story of change and innovation and very dynamic.
“But I think this is far and away the biggest, the most dramatic change in the programme’s history. It’s a really historic occasion.
“You look back at those 53 years of history and the amazing production of it and then you think of all the stories and the characters.
“And you think, actually, we have now got a facility that will equip us to go forward and make the next 53 years be just as brilliant – and do justice to the first 53 years.
“We have the new Studio Support Building and it contains the production offices, the editorial offices, there’s a wonderful Green Room for the cast, lovely shiny new dressing rooms, there’s a wonderful restaurant there.
“We’ve got a brand new state of the art facility.
“And the other great thing is, everything is under one roof. In the old building there was quite a lot of walking between offices and departments.
“Now we’re all under one roof. One big family. And I think it’s going to be a wonderful place to work. We can’t wait to get over here.”
The first scenes filmed at Trafford Wharf in early January are due on screen in March.
But there will be no fanfare.
“No. The big news is the move. This reveal today and the move in January.
“Then I personally don’t want us to make a big fuss about the new set on screen.
“I want the viewers to just carry on enjoying Coronation Street, being engrossed with the stories and to carry on loving our characters. That’s what we want to be doing.
“We’ve got some really great stories coming up next year.
“I hope the viewers think the new set absolutely enhances their enjoyment but doesn’t in any way get in the way of them following the stories and loving the characters.”
You can see my full set of 48 photos here.