24 April 2010

Albion Market

"Albion Market" was an English soap which centred on everyday life in a covered market somewhere around the Manchester area. In reality, the "Albion Market" set was a converted warehouse in Water Street, by the River Irwell, close to the Granada Television studios. Denis Parkin, the original designer of "Coronation Street", also designed the market set. Part of the warehouse used for "Albion Market" has been demolished in recent years, but over half of it remains to this day, although it appears to be in a poor state of repair.

A building next to the warehouse (since demolished) became Albion Market's "local", The Waterman's Arms, and also the market superintendent's office.

From the "Daily Mirror", August 8th, 1985.

Here's the girl in my soap..

ROLL UP! Roll up! Here's a pair of street traders just setting up in business for ITV's latest soap opera "Albion Market". Biscuit bargains man John Michie cuddles up to his co-star in the £3 million series, sexy stall-holder Sally Baxter.

Most of the cast are newcomers, but Granada TV has picked former "Coronation Street" stars David Hargreaves - Suzie Burchell's [sic] dad - and Carol Kaye, one of barman Fred Gee's girlfriends, to get the market bustling when the series starts this month.

"No we don't sell microwave ovens. What do you think this is - 'Arrod's?!!"

"Albion Market", ITV's second Lancashire based soap ("Coronation Street", of course, being the first), made its screen debut on 30 August 1985.

The original cast line up for the photographers. They were - left to right, standing: Tony Fraser (John Michie), Geoff Travis (Geoffrey Leesley), Brenda Rigg (Valerie Lilley), Larry Rigg (Peter Benson), Duane Rigg (Alistair Walker), Derek Owen (David Hargreaves), Phil Smith (Burt Caesar), Peggy Sagar (Paula Jacobs), Morris Ransome (Bernard Spear), Miriam Ransome (Carol Kaye), Ly Nhu Chan (Pik-Sen Lim), Lam Quoc Hoa (Philip Tan).

Left to right, front: Jaz Sharma (
Paul Bhattacharje
e), Raju Sharma (Dev Sagoo), Lynne Harrison (Noreen Kershaw), Roy Harrison (Jonathan Barlow), Lisa O'Shea (Sally Baxter), Keith Naylor (Derek Hicks), Carol Broadbent (Barbara Wilshere).

Rare "Albion Market" artifacts - two pages from a rehearsal script, issued on 15 November 1985. The episode was written by Andy Lynch, and broadcast in January 1986. Rehearsals took place on Wednesday 27 November 1985 from 10.00-17.00 hrs at the Water Street set, and on Thursday 28 November 1985 from 10.00 to 17.00 at the Bonded Warehouse at Granada TV Studios - which housed several interior sets for the series (although a large amount of interior filming also took place at the Water Street set).

In the photograph above, we see Morris Ransome and Geoff Travis squaring up to each other, whilst Morris' wife Miriam looks on.

Geoff has been selling primulas in china pots, much to pot seller Morris' outrage.

Morris was one of a new breed of soap men who were there to prove that men actually shared many of the faults traditionally associated with women.

The wonderful Amos Brearly of "Emmerdale Farm" had been the lone soap male listening out for juicy items of gossip for years. In 1982 "Brookside" broke away completely from nosey, middle aged female stereotypes as it showed (albeit briefly) handsome young executive Roger Huntington taking an excessive interest in neighbours moving in next door - much to his wife's boredom.

"Brookside" later gave us Harry Cross - who hen-pecked his wife Edna and pal Ralph non-stop and was never happier than when interfering in his neighbours' business.

And "Coronation Street" developed a male sticky beak in 1983, when Percy Sugden arrived.

Were women now portrayed as having many of the faults traditionally associated with men? Er, no actually.

Despite being a nag and a sticky beak, Morris never acted out of malice, and he and the gentle Miriam were one of Albion Market's most likeable pairings.

Spotty young nerd Keith Naylor has a quiet snigger as his boss, market superintendent Derek Owen, is inundated with problems.

Carol Broadbent and Lisa O'Shea thought Keith was a wally.

Carol shows Hoa her Valentine's cards and tells him about the tradition, whilst fervently hoping that spotty Keith is not one of her card senders!

As the series progressed, Keith matured a bit after being led astray by fascists and setting fire to the Sharma brothers' van. The realisation of the error of his ways, and trendy blonde streaks in his hair, seemed to mark a happier era for the spotty young misfit. But, sadly, he ended up marrying a complete nightmare.

Headed notepaper was issued to cast members.

Lynne Harrison was Lisa O'Shea's mother and sold things like Ajax and pan scrubs on Albion Market. Her husband, Roy, was about to be released from prison as the show began.

The first in a series of three Albion Market novels by Ray Evans - "Ticket Of Leave": Lynne and Roy Harrison face a new beginning...


For Roy Harrison, just out of prison, working on his wife's stall in Albion Market was like being on a ticket of leave. Everyone was watching him - including his step-daughter Lisa.

Raju Sharma was worried about Jaz. When would he realise that they were in the market to work, not to chat up pretty girls? He'd have to keep an eye on his handsome brother.

Derek Owen, market superintendent, was on the lookout too. Who had burned down the Jessups' stall? Who was the petty thief? And where the hell was Keith's pet boa constrictor Boris?

He sighed and moved on to more pressing problems. Morris was in the office again to complain that florist Geoff Travis was selling primulas - in china pots.

Sometimes the traders in Albion Market acted like children - but Derek knew that their livelihood depended on his swift and fair decisions.

Book two - "Thorns And Roses" - Raju Sharma is keen to find brother Jaz a wife. How will Jaz react to plans for an arranged marriage?


While Derek Owen, market superintendent, worried about how the closure of yet another local factory would affect trade, his dozy assistant Keith pined after young Carol.

All she did was insult him. It was obvious she fancied handsome Jaz Sharma.

But Jazz had problems of his own. Who'd have thought he would fall for Meena, the girl his older brother Raju was pushing him to marry?

The trouble was that Meena didn't believe in aranged marriages either - she wanted to break away from her strict parents and be independent.

Meanwhile lonely Keith jumped at the chance to meet some real Speedway riders - even if they did have some funny ideas about politics.

It was true he had no time for his rival Jaz - but at Oliver Shawcross's sinister prompting, things started to get a bit out of hand.

Book three - "Settling Debts":


As soon as the Sharmas' van was in flames, Keith realized he'd made a terrible mistake. But what could he ever do to make it up?

He hated Oliver Shawcross and his fascist thugs now. They were still spreading race hate around the market - and Keith would have to act soon.

Hoa's gambling was getting out of hand again. Somehow his cousin Chan had to convince him that poker wasn't the way to help his father back in Vietnam.

If only she could talk to someone about it. Keith needed to talk too. He could sell his beloved motor-bike to pay back Jaz and Raju, but that didn't ease the terrible burden of guilt...

The "Albion Market" theme tune appeared on vinyl - performed by a group appropriately named Fair Deal.

In April 1986, Peggy Sagar wondered if she had done the right thing in taking Paul O'Donnell (Paul Beringer) on as cook at her Albion Market cafe. His efforts at a full English breakfast were simply not up to scratch...

Paula Jacobs talked about "being" Peggy Sagar in a 1985 TV Times interv

Peggy Sagar, who runs the the cafe in Albion Market, is a down-to-earth character with whom people instinctively share their troubles.

"I wish I had more of her qualities," says the modest Paula Jacobs, who plays Peggy. "She's staunch and sturdy, reacts well in a crisis and is warm without being sentimental.

"She's got a temper though," adds Paula with an approving chuckle.

Like Peggy, Paula enjoys a good laugh and a natter, and she can be discreet when secrets are revealed. "But I don't think I'd want to run a cafe," she admits, "although I love cooking for friends."

"My husband thinks I should go in for it in a serious way, but I wouldn't want to cook for people I didn't like, people who weren't polite.

"Peggy has to be nice even when she gets customers who are rude, so I'm glad I don't have her job. I suppose I'd learn to keep my mouth shut if I had to, but I think it's appalling when people are discourteous in a shop or restaurant.

Courtesy and a sense of humour, she feels, are the important qualities to have.

With these attributes, plus her skills in the kitchen, Paula should have little trouble making a success of running a cafe.

Albion Market was devised by scriptwriters Peter Whalley (Coronation Street) and Andy Lynch (Brookside).

Granada was confident about the new soap's prospects. At the launch, David Plowright, Managing Director, invited the press to make a date for 2010, when, he predicted, Albion Market would be celebrating its silver jubilee.

But it was not to be. Albion Market ended in August 1986, after exactly 100 episodes, despite the involvement from its inception of producer Bill Podmore - the genius who had pulled Coronation Street out of the doldrums in the mid-70s.

So, what went wrong? I'm not sure. The show was well acted and had likeable characters, but in the 1980s there was a tremendous drive, started by Brookside, to make soaps more up-to-date and relevant and many "right on" soap scriptwriters were out to show just how grim life was in "Thatcher's Britain".

As a Tory-hating Socialist of the time, I applauded the "relevant" story-lines. Trouble is, looking back, I can now see that the shaggy dog was often too darned shaggy.

In Albion Market, we had the death of a neglected and disliked tramp, the attempted suicide of an unemployed man, an abandoned baby in the back of a van and a long-drawn out story about racism to "entertain" us. There was humour, but it all seemed a faintly uneasy mix.

For all its attempts at being multi-ethnic, in my humble opinion Albion Market took a far too issue-related approach when it came to two of its characters, brothers Jaz and Raju Sharma, who ran a fashion clothing stall.

The Sharmas were Ugandan Asians, thrown out by Idi Amin. Jaz was the younger and more carefree of the two brothers, Raju was older, married, and saw himself as taking on the mantle of responsibility from his deceased father.

With little time for character development, we saw Jaz thrown into a "relevant" story-line about arranged marriages. As it happened, this particular plot featured a bit of a twist and I found it interesting. But even before the arranged marriage story-line had ended, the Sharmas were heading into another "relevant" story-line - this time about racism.

The story-line was gritty and true to life, but I think it would have been far better if the Sharmas had had some time to breathe, if Raju's wife and the two brothers' mother and sister had been introduced earlier in the series, and the characters had been built up a little more as people, rather than becoming vehicles for "relevant" story-lines almost from the start.

So, to sum up, the first sixty or so episodes of Albion Market featured tales of racism, sudden death and attempted suicide, heavily wrapped in a Left Wing sub-text that told viewers life was sooo gloomy in Thatcher's Britain.

EastEnders, the other new soap of 1985, also had more than its fair share of gloomy storylines, but many of the characters were more compelling to watch - dynamic and abrasive (Lou Beale, for example!).

Albion Market was revamped - shoulder pads were imported, Tony Booth, former "scouse git" of Till Death Us Do Part, arrived on the scene as local pub landlord Ted Pilkington, and Simon Rouse (later of The Bill) appeared as Alan Curtis, the slimy new boss man. Then 1960s pop singer Helen Shapiro joined the cast as warm hearted and level headed Viv Harker, the new market hairdresser.

Suddenly, the Market seemed a livelier place... the clothes were jazzier, the atmosphere more upbeat - there was slightly more of a glitzy '80s atmosphere, replacing the original miserable "Thatcher is killing us all" vibe.

The new scheme of things was definitely intriguing. There were shoulder pads. And there was corruption.

But it was too late.

The show had been tossed around the schedules in the ITV regions, and was quickly ended.

Shame - I really liked some of the characters: Noreen Kershaw as fiery and done-down-by-life Lynne Harrison was a joy, as were Jewish china sellers Miriam and Morris Ransome, played by Carol Kaye and Bernard Spear, fearsome-but-good-hearted Peggy Sagar (the market cafe owner), played by Paula Jacobs, and daffy young cafe worker Carol Broadbent - a grand performance from Barbara Wilshere.

Market superintendent Derek Owen, played by David Hargreaves, and his assistant, Keith Naylor (Derek Hicks), were an amusing pair, and Pik-Sen Lim as Ly Nhu Chan, coping with her gambling-addicted cousin Hoa, had an aura of simplicity and kindness which I found enchanting.

Barbara Peirson as Eileen Travis, a woman approaching and finally reaching the end of her tether as her home life degenerated, was simply excellent. We felt her pain.

February 1986: Lynne Harrison grabs the chance of a cheap holiday in Spain.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Albion Market ended, but the memories linger...

For me personally, Albion Market was part of a very happy era in my life, and my recollections of many things from back then, including the Market folk saga, are very sweet.

Gazing out across the River Irwell from Albion Market.

Eileen Travis (Barbara Peirson), wife of plant stall holder Geoff, had endured three miscarriages and, after numerous physical investigations, feeling more like a set of malfunctioning parts than a human being, decided to accept life without children.

But Geoff, a kindly and likeable man, had a strong paternal instinct. He wanted to adopt. Eileen didn't. When Louise Todd (Kelly Lawrence), a teenage girl who had dumped her newborn child in the back of Geoff's van, returned to the scene, Geoff was keen for her and the child, named Jenny after his mother, to move in to the Travis house on a temporary basis.

Eileen reluctantly agreed.

Louise may have been young, but she was a an arch-manipulator. Trouble brewed.

And Geoff failed to see his wife's agony when she saw him holding Jenny.

Geoff's paternal instinct blinded him to obvious facts concerning Louise and Barbara.

And finally he ended up totally alone.

Peggy Sagar gives two racist yobs their marching orders from her cafe...

Cafe staff Carol Broadbent and Phil Smith are aghast when...

... one of the yobs grabs a carving knife and holds it to Peggy's throat. Toy stall holder Oliver Shawcross, friend of Peggy, closet racist, and secretly on good terms with the vicious miscreants, bursts in and demands that the louts hand over the knife and leave.

They do, Oliver is hailed as a hero - and is horrified when Ly Nhu Chan and Phil both congratulate him.

Oliver came to a nasty end, but Malcolm Hebden, the man who played him, went on to great success as Norris Cole in "Coronation Street". Somebody else who appeared in "Albion Market" before going on to greater soap fame elsewhere was Michelle Collins, later Cindy Beale in "EastEnders". She did a couple of brief stints in the market soap as Diane Meadows, the pregnant partner of Morris and Miriam Ransome's son, Julian.

Simon Rouse, now far better known for his part in "The Bill", and 60s pop singer Helen Shapiro feature in this original Granada TV publicity photograph. Helen arrived on screen in June 1986 to play hairdresser Viv Harker. The original publicity blurb is shown below.

By the time Helen Shapiro joined the show, "Albion Market" did not have much longer to run. Helen made an excellent job of playing Viv - a warm and likeable character with a keen business sense and an interesting past. Simon Rouse made Alan Curtis a figure viewers could love to hate. Mr Curtis brought a great deal of intrigue to the market - and became romantically involved with two of the local ladies.

Larry and Brenda Rigg ran the Albion Market toy stall - with occasional help from teenage son Duane. Both Larry and Duane had a keen eye for money-making ventures and Larry, who had been a stallholder at the market for many years, had often strayed into shady deals. But in 1986, new market superintendent Alan Curtis, with a little help from a corrupt local police officer, got the better of Larry and forced the Riggs to leave Albion Market forever.

Another original publicity photograph. Middle aged and married Derek's relationship with Chan was one of the most interesting and original "Albion Market" storylines. Would Derek leave his wife? Would the relationship survive the age and cultural differences? Sadly, the show ended before we could find out.

The blurb - in those days publicity photographs were released with an explanatory blurb pasted on the back.

The End!

The final episode of Albion Market was broadcast on Sunday, 24/8/1986. Assistant market superintendent Keith Naylor married Louise Todd, who had previously shocked the market by dumping her new born baby in the back of trader Geoff Travis' van.

Keith's mother disapproved of the wedding and Louise's baby cried throughout the ceremony.

Included in the picture above are Keith and Louise (centre), long suffering Waterman's Arms barmaid Colette Johnson (Nimmy March - back row, second from left), market superintendent Derek Owen (David Hargreaves, who, incidently, also played Tom Darblay, husband of the original Juliet Bravo) and, holding on to her hat, Peggy Sagar from the cafe.

The final scene saw the market regulars waving Keith and Louise off on their honeymoon.

On a visit to Manchester in the 1990s, my wife and I stumbled across the former Albion Market set.

Sadly shorn of its high hopes of soap glory, it had become a car park. More here.


Roger v.d. Velde said...

The only episode I recall was when the brother of Chan (at least I think it was him) snapped and kicked some guy in the face. Then spent days 'in meditation'.

Drew said...

Oh, yes! Larry Rigg organised an illegal wrestling match in the derelict warehouse by Albion Market. Hoa (Chan's cousin) ended up nearly being throttled and was forced to use a martial arts defence move which could have killed his opponent, who was hospitalised.