Today the torch is travelling out of Blackpool, the home of the kiss-me-quick hat, the seaside donkey and the Tower through names of places which hold the tang of t’gritty north. Preston, Rochdale, Blackburn. Ee by gum.
We start off at Lytham St Anne’s, built on the strength of mill money and beloved by the gentility of the Edwardians. Not madly famous for authors, but more famous for Les Dawson, who has a statue in his honour here, and the fact that George Formby also once lived in the town.
Which looks nothing like our dear Les, in my opinion.
Oop North – for a southern jessie like me, this is truly “oop north” there might be a paucity of famous writers, particularly of the GLBTQ genre, but there is a wealth of big, brawny men with sinews like the veritable blacksmith. Men like Peter Kay, Paddy McGuinness, Ian McShane and of course, Les Dawson. They build ’em big oop here.
One of my favourite authors was born in Bury, Lancashire, though. Someone who, until the age of the internet I actually thought was a man! She wrote 41 books for adults but is only really remembered for one series of books – who is she? Richmal Crompton! Who? Some of you might be saying, but if I gave you this picture, would you be any the wiser?
Just William. The epitome of boys everywhere. Even today, despite the fact that he was invented in 1922. Goodness! A woman daring to write about not only the opposite sex, but a child as well! How on earth dared she!?
I adored William Compton. I was a real tomboy (suppose I still am) – refusing to wear dresses, running around covered in mud with pockets full of shells, string and snails, and William struck a chord with me far more than girls’ stories which all seemed to be about leggy laughing and impeccably neat girls riding bikes and never getting dirty.
As the torch nears Manchester, and if you were to take a small detour off the track, you’d come across the village of Standish. Not, at all the one I based my first novel on, but being a bit of a traffic hotspot, it amuses me that it gives me a bit of advertising every day as it’s always snarled up with traffic and mentioned on the radio!
We pull into Manchester and I ask you to ignore the gentrification, the rebirth of a depressed inner city and stop before the city centre itself, out in Salford. Find a nice little backstreet with cobbled roads, a pub, a knicker factory, a garage, a bistro, a corner shop and a lifetime of memories.
For we are not in Salford, we are in the fictional district of Weatherfield, and here, with the lovely cobbles, the famous pub – The Rovers’ Return, is Coronation Street, the world’s longest running TV soap, which has just celebrated 51 years on air. I grew up watching Corrie, as we affectionately call it over here, as it went on air just a few weeks after my first birthday. It is here that I get all my ideas about what “oop north” is all about, and I’m sure I’d be deeply disappointed that it’s actually nothing much like that these days.
Its creator, Tony Warren, is gay, so it did surprise me that it took quite so long to introduce gay characters into the show. The first gay men didn’t appear until 2003 when Todd Grimshaw began to wonder if his relationship with Sarah Platt was actually what he wanted and he kissed her brother instead–Eastenders had eclipsed Corrie in this and had gay characters (still fondly remembered, Barry and the yuppie Colin) almost from the first episode.
So we finish our tour today in Manchester city centre, which has a thriving gay community, centered firmly around Canal Street (how apt) and where much of the action in Queer as Folk took place!
And of course, the lovely Sir Ian McKellern was born in Lancashire. AND he’s appeared on Coronation Street…
Thanks for following the torch today!
Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in Norfolk in the middle of nowhere and loves it madly. She likes cheese and cats but has found that only one is any good on toast. She writes–almost exclusively, but who knows–gay historical fiction and is so passionate about the genre that she started the gay historical review site Speak Its Name which aims to catalogue and review every single title. It’s not managing!
You can learn more about Erastes’ novels on her website. www.erastes.com