Stewart Darby describes his role taking photographs of Coronation Street

What your role was would be taking photographs that could be used in the TV Times and…

For press and publicity generally. So when I photographed Coronation Street – in those days they were only a fortnight in front – those we would try and get in the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the News of the World, the TV Times, whatever it might be. Press and publicity to promote the show basically. But, as I say, there were a lot of spin-offs from that. So I would go on a shoot maybe one day, on a Street location. In those days we shot the Street outside on a Monday. There was a technical run on the Wednesday. First episode was done Thursday afternoon and the second one was done Friday. But I’m going back to when before the Street was built it was a cardboard cut-out in Studio 2 and 6. The front of the houses was like they are now, you know, sets kind of thing. So it was mainly press and publicity but the spin-offs on that were crackers! You know there were so many different things as I say. You know, one thing I discovered very early on was to make friends with everyone. And I tell you why. The lights would go down on Coronation Street, the set, and I needed that picture and the early days was a set dress, 28 minutes, bang bang bang, one camera. As one scene finished, cameras moved to another set – are you with me? – to start that off, and so on. And it was 28 minutes and that was it.

What do you mean by 28 minutes?

That’s what it was, the timing, with the commercials. And then they might say, “we need to quicken it up a bit”, “we need to slow that”, “We just need a few other guys”, you know. So often when the light went from that set and I hadn’t had a chance to do what I wanted, I’d be on to the camera guys – “Get the lights on for me!” – so friendly with everybody. Sparks, Floor Managers…most Floor Managers were excellent, there were one or two who were a bit tricky but anyway. But everybody, sound, “Get the lights on for Stew” and then I’d go, “Thanks very much!” because I’d got me picture! Because stills are so different. Stills you have to hopefully show in one go what that’s about, if you see what I mean. And later on I used to just get an idea with the Press Officer who was doing the Street, what we were going to base it on, what was the shot of the week kind of thing and I would go and line that up to hopefully show in one go what that episode was about! Which can be quite tricky sometimes. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean the Street, God, they became personal friends of mine, you know, over 27 years. I did their weddings, their christenings, their parties, played golf with Bill Roach, Johnny Briggs, all of them became very good friends. Bill Tarmey, great friend, well they all did!

Photo by Stewart Darby

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