Still Open All Hours, the spin-off show from the BBC’s famous 1970s sitcom, Open All Hours, is returning for a fifth series later this year. The plot revolves around the staff and customers of an old-fashioned corner shop in Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Again, the series will star David Jason as Granville, nephew of the original grocery shop-owner, Arkwright, played by the late Ronnie Barker. Granville was a young, good-natured but rather dull-witted employee in Open All Hours when it was first screened in 1973.
He now owns the shop, that has retained all of its traditional charm – he even wears his late uncle’s old-fashioned beige cloth coat to protect his clothing. Veteran actor Jason says he’s thrilled to be returning to our screens with the new series, which will be broadcast later this year.
He described Granville and Arkwright’s shop (and its regular customers) as bringing their “own sense of barminess” to the grocery world. Still Open All Hours is created and written by Roy Clarke, who brought the pilot show of Open All Hours to our screens 45 years ago.
Open All Hours attracted around 17 million viewers every week and was one of the BBC’s most famous and enduring sitcoms in history. Clarke, who also wrote Last of the Summer Wine, based Arkwright’s on a small shop he remembered from his youth.
Barker came up with Arkwright’s character once the setting was in place, portraying him as a penny-pinching skinflint who was always trying to make money by cutting corners. Even though it was dangerous due to the drawer snapping shut, he even refused to repair the broken till because of the cost. He claimed it was a burglar deterrent!
The pilot show for Open All Hours was broadcast on 25th March 1973 and was an instant hit. As well as Arkwright and Granville, the other regulars included Arkwright’s love interest, Gladys, the district nurse, played by Lynda Baron, who didn’t return his affections.
The regular customers included Stephanie Cole as the dour Delphine Featherstone and Maggie Ollerenshaw as ditherer Mavis, who was always fretting about what soup she should buy.
Clarke revealed Arkwright’s was based on a small shop in Thornbury called LE Riddiford – a place he had visited as a young man. He said the real shop’s owner, Len Riddiford, was nothing like Arkwright – he was a lovely man!
The packed shelves in Arkwright’s contained a selection of goods in glorious disarray, including old-fashioned cakes, tinned fruits and mops and buckets, in no particular order. Fresh fruit and veg were displayed outside in open boxes on a long table, while other items hung on hooks above.
In real life, the exterior of Arkwright’s was the Beautique hair salon, in the Yorkshire town of Balby. The BBC thought the shop had the perfect look for Open All Hours and paid salon owner Helen Ibbotson to close to customers in the summer, so that filming could take place.
A fake sign was erected outside, and the packed window display would be a jumble of tinned foods. It created a genuine 1970s feel, stirring nostalgic memories for older viewers today.
The authenticity of the shop front was particularly important, since the action regularly took place outside, including Arkwright’s reflection on the day’s events at the end of each episode, when he would stand outside talking to himself as be took the stock in for the night.
The original Open All Hours ran for four series, comprising 26 episodes, from 1973 until 1985. Each episode was a self-contained plot, with the same genre of gentle humour that had typified Last of the Summer Wine.
The humour was frequently visual, such as in the episode when Arkwright had misspelled the word ‘special’ with an ‘O’ when he painted a promotional sign on his window at the start of the day’s business.
As the camera pans in on Arkwright, who is painting directly on the exterior window pane, viewers chuckle when they see that it reads, ‘Today’s speciol’.
Granville also picks up on this and laughingly points out the error to Arkwright. However, Arkwright tells his nephew, “We’re not trying to educate them, we’re trying to lure them in!”
He then admits he’s misspelt it deliberately as part of a clever marketing ploy, explaining it doesn’t matter to the customers who can’t spell, as they will come in anyhow to see what’s on offer.
Arkwright says there will be “28 clever dicks who would’ve walked straight by” who will now come in to point out the sign is misspelt, thus becoming potential customers! “Once they’ve crossed that doorway, I’ll ‘ave ’em!” he says gleefully.
Still Open All Hours
Viewers never forgot Open All Hours and the re-runs attracted great viewing figures, so in 2013, the BBC announced a 40th anniversary one-off special by Clarke. Unfortunately, Barker had died eight years earlier, so the plot revolved around Granville who had inherited the shop from Arkwright.
This too proved popular and became a spin-off series in its own right, Still Open All Hours, in 2014, with six new episodes broadcast. There have now been four series of the new show, containing 27 episodes so far. The BBC said series five was being filmed throughout the summer of 2018, with plans to screen it later this year.
Although Arkwright’s general store is a wonderful place (an Aladdin’s Cave of antiquated treasures), today’s retailers are looking for a modern feel to attract customers in an ever-changing environment.
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