It’s part of British TV history and now a group of Yorkshire ex-pats are taking Coronation Street to Canada. Sara E Baxter reports.
When Mike Goldthorpe was growing up in Huddersfield, every thing stopped for Coronation Street. As soon as the theme music started, the family gathered around the television, yet it wasn’t until he moved to Canada and found himself hankering after events in Weatherfield that he felt able to openly admit he was a fan.
“When I lived in Huddersfield, if the doorbell rang and I was watching Coronation Street, I’d make sure I changed the channel before I answered it,” says the 56-year-old. “In England the men are closet Coronation Street watchers. They say they know what’s happening on the show only because their girlfriend or wife watches. They just don’t want to admit to watching a soap opera.”
However, when Mike moved to Hudson, a few miles west of Montreal in Quebec, he soon met a number of like-minded ex-pats for whom the soap was a reminder of home.
An official society dedicated to the show, set in a fictional town on the other side of the Pennines, was set up and, six years on, membership is booming. The Hudson Coronation Street Appreciation Society (HCSAS) now boasts 150 members, who meet on the first Sunday of every month in the town’s only British-style pub for an afternoon of Corrie trivia and gossip.
“There’s a famous saying: There was life before Coronation Street but it didn’t add up to much,” says James Parry, who was a freelance reporter for the Yorkshire Post before moving to Canada in the late 1960s. He is the society’s founding member, president and the man who makes sure the HCSAS’s two golden rules are kept sacrosanct.
“The first rule is that upon returning from overseas you must never tell anyone what’s happening on the Street in England unless they insist,” says Parry. Canada is six months behind the action and the society is careful to avoid overseas spoilers. “The second is that you can never phone a fellow member during broadcasting hours. Nobody wants to miss a single minute of Corrie action.”
Parry formed the society when he realised the British soap, an antidote to the usual big-budget American shows which filled the schedules, had acquired something of a following in Hudson and the surrounding communities.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring people together, to get out and meet new friends and share the life on The Street,” he says.
“Coronation Street touches on all facets of life with real people which is such a marked difference from the fake glamour of American soaps. It’s a make believe world, but grounded in reality, and one that we can all relate to.”
For many of those who have emigrated from England, Coronation Street and the society is a reminder of what they left behind.
“For me it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane and a way to stay in touch with the British way of life,” says Mike. “It’s about people who are having trouble paying their bills, people who have break ups and affairs, it’s just so realistic.”
Mike’s French Canadian wife Anne Pennell is also a member of the society, but admits life on the Street took a little getting used to.
“I found it a little depressing at first,” she admits. “But the more I watched it, the more I got to enjoy the lives of these people. In England everything revolves around the pub and that’s not the case at all in Canada, but the life issues are very universal.
“Coronation Street is about family life and although these people live in a different country the same kind of things happen in their world as it does in ours.”
Mike, who still has family in Yorkshire, often returns to the county on visits, but unlike in his childhood he never sits down to watch Coronation Street, preferring to remain in the dark about the storylines to come.
“We were in Yorkshire over Christmas, Anne was asking people to update us on what was happening,” he says. “I had to keep telling her, ‘no, you’re going to ruin it for us’.”
Although Mike occasionally misses Yorkshire, he’s in no hurry to move back to England for good.
“I love the British Isles very much, but I’m a North American guy now. I like the big country and the big sky,” he laughs. “I’m lucky I have friends and relatives who visit from England, so it’s not so bad.”
And for those times when home sickness does strike? Well, there’ll always be the Hudson Coronation Street Appreciation Society to lean on, and regular episodes of The Street that play out five evenings a week.