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Tuesday March 5th 2024

A Taste Of Honey | 1961

A compendium of Sixties hot potatoes – unmarried motherhood, race, homosexuality – baked in a cracking script from Shelagh Delaney’s stage play. It was the first British feature film to be made entirely on location, around the streets and canals of Manchester and neighbouring Salford.

Jo (Rita Tushingham) tags along with her mother Helen (the priceless Dora Bryan) and her fancy man Peter (Robert Stephens) for a seriously glum day out at Blackpool, the traditional rainswept resort of the working class north. The eagle-eyed might spot director Tony Richardson, in earnest anorak, strolling immediately behind Helen See the resort's blowsy splendour in Bhaji On The Beach and Funny Bones. It's overlooked by Blackpool Tower, based on (but rather smaller than) the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Blackpool Tower’s extravagant ballroom can be seen in Ken Russell’s Hollywood biopic, Valentino, with dancer Rudolph Nureyev as the silent heartthrob.

Much of the terraced housing has gone, but you can still see the vast red-brick arches of Stockport Viaduct, beneath which Jo and Geoffrey (Murray Melvin) cut loose – "We're all extraordinary people!". Claimed to be Western Europe’s largest brick structure, it was opened in 1842, and restored in 1989.

Helen and Peter dance at the Ritz Ballroom, Whitworth Street West, Manchester. Built in 1927, and notable for that sprung dance floor, the Ritz was designated Grade II in 1994, and given a £2 million refurbishment in 2011. It's now a live music venue, re-branded as O2 Ritz Manchester.

The neighbourhood not entirely Salford, though. It’s partly, um, Chelsea, London SW3.

It might be difficult to envisage today, but SW3 was not always as expensively ‘chichi’ as it is today. The production base, which was used for the rickety flat shared by Jo and Geoffrey, was the scenic workshop of the English Stage Company (based at the western end of the King’s Road, in Sloane Square’s Royal Court Theatre). The workshop and yard (where the film ends with a firework display) stood further to the east but have since been demolished, but 74 Elm Park Road, just around the corner from the site, is the house – then in a state of disrepair – used for the interior of Helen and Jo's ‘Salford’ home.