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"Let me show you around Coronation Street"

Posted in: Television
By Matt Akersten - 25th September 2015

A visit to the culture-rich UK city of Manchester in 2015 isn't complete without stepping onto the city's most famous cobbles, home to decades of dramatic, hilarious and unforgettable soap opera moments.

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Coronation Street guide Peter Strauss

Yes, the Coronation Street Tour is open for visitors, so I went to have a look and met a lovely and chatty gay Aussie there, whose job showing people around and sharing his knowledge of the much-loved 55-year-old drama is a dream come true for him.

The entire Coronation Street studio and outdoor set was recently recreated in Manchester's giant new media complex, so the old street's days are numbered. The attraction is welcoming hundreds of visitors for the must-do tour before it closes at the end of this year and is (oh, no!) demolished.

During the tours, as visitors prepare for their photo pulling a pint at the Rovers Return pub, Coronation Street guide Peter Strauss always asks folks where they're visiting from, and he says he gets a lot of fans from New Zealand, many of whom have chosen to stop in Manchester on their UK holiday specifically to see the Coro Street set.

"But as New Zealand is currently 18 months behind the UK, we have to warn our guests that there are some spoilers during the tour!" he tells me.

"It's an amazing job. A lot of the time it doesn't actually feel like a job, because it's so much fun. The people I work with are incredible. When I joined, they really made me feel welcome. It really is a good team environment, everyone mucking in and helping where we can.

"I came over to the UK on my working visa expecting to do the stereotypical Aussie thing of pub work," he explains. "Shortly after arriving the job was listed on the Coronation Street Blog website and so I applied. I was quite surprised to get the email asking me to come in for the audition. I travelled down from Edinburgh where I had been staying, and I was happily shocked when I got the call about the phone interview, during which I was told they'd love me as a part of the team. I packed my things and was there a few days later!"

He says he gets many varied and amusing questions from guests, like: Are the pigeons real? Where's Carla? Where's Norris? Where's Rita? "I can answer - yes the pigeons are Manchester born and bred, and the cast are all busy filming at the new MediaCityUK set."

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Peter has been a fan of the show since 2004. One of his earliest memories was Todd Grimshaw's coming out saga, and now he's pleased to see many more LGBT characters and storylines included.

"My favourite LGBT character would have to be Sophie Webster. Watching the way she has grown up over the years and seeing her evolve from a child into a woman and deal with her sexuality is beautiful and inspiring.

"My two favourites overall would have to be Carla Connor and Steve McDonald. The way Alison King portrays Carla is fantastic, and the raw emotion she can bring is powerful.

"Simon Gregson as Steve would have to be on the list of top characters ever to appear in the show. He, like Sophie, we've watched grow up on the show over the years and seen him go from a teenager to a troublemaker and now to a jovial larrikin. His comedic talents and timing are brilliant! The depression storyline from last year was very well portrayed, to see Steve go from this happy-go-lucky care-free guy to a man locking himself away from the world."

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Guests often ask Peter for a scoop on future plotlines - "but we don't know!" he laughs. "And we're as excited as everyone else to see what lies in store for the residents of Weatherfield.

"My favourite part of the tour is revealing the sets to guests. Going from the video montage and opening the curtain where the guests get their look at the inside sets is quite exciting, and watching as they walk into the Rovers Return.

"The grand reveal onto the street itself is the biggest thrill. We've had it all, people walking out in awe, ranging from smiling and jaws wide open, to people screaming or bursting into tears. You know when this happens you've really made a difference in someone's life, and that is where the job satisfaction comes into it."

Coronation Street: The Tour is open in Manchester until 31 December 2015. Visit the website here for more information and tickets. http://www.coronationstreettour.co.uk/


Matt Akersten - 25th September 2015

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