Enamored fans flock to Holmes Chapel tours

Noor Nanji,Culture Reporter at Holmes Chapel, @NoorNanji

BBC Two teenagers pose next to a photo of Harry Styles in a bakerybbc

Caitlin (left) and Jessie posed for photos next to a life-size cutout of Styles.

Harry Styles fans have long been obsessed with every detail of his life, his romances, and his childhood.

Now the Harries, as they are known, are being offered guided walking tours of the Cheshire village where the pop sensation grew up.

Tickets go on sale Thursday and tours will begin next week.

But the BBC had a breakthrough, along with a group of teenage devotees. One of them, Jessie, 17, said she was a “lifelong fan.”

He said it was “really exciting” to follow in the singer’s footsteps, visiting sites such as the Twemlow Viaduct, where the singer had his first kiss, and the Mandeville bakery, where he worked part-time.

Getty Images Harry Styles posing for a photographfake images

Holmes Chapel Partnership, which created the new walking route, hopes it will help improve road safety in the area.

The nonprofit has recruited a group of superfans to lead the tours, which will take place throughout the summer.

Headlining the preview tour was Gillian Calbi, a 23-year-old from New Jersey, USA, currently studying in Manchester; and Ben McCormick, 16, who lives in Holmes Chapel and attends Styles’ old school.

Gillian described it as her “dream job”, having been a dedicated Styles fan for over a decade.

“I’ve seen him in concert 10 times, and 16 times in total, including One Direction,” he said.

Ben described the application process as “tough” and explained: “I’ve heard hundreds of applicants applied.”

He didn’t think he’d get the job, but he won over recruiters with his local knowledge.

“They clearly decided they were going to try it with me, just like Simon Cowell did with Harry.”

Gillian and Ben, two superfans who lead the tours

Superfans Gillian and Ben have been recruited to lead the tours.

Selfies and sweets

One of the first stops on the tour is the bakery.

It sells a variety of bread and sweet products. So far everything normal. But this is where Styles used to work when he was a teenager, after school and on Saturdays.

A life-sized cutout of Styles in his Mandeville uniform is on display, and fans jostle to take selfies next to it.

Caitlin, 18, has been a Styles fan since she was just four years old. She took the opportunity to visit her hometown and said: “You will be able to see where she started, where she lived and also all the people she knew.”

For Leah, 27, from Liverpool, it wasn’t her first trip to Holmes Chapel. In fact, she comes to town every two weeks to check out Styles’ old haunts.

However, he has not yet been lucky enough to meet the singer. “I’d love to take a look at it,” she said. “Fingers crossed.”

Simon Wakefield, owner of Mandeville's Bakery

Simon Wakefield hired Harry Styles when he was only 16 years old

The man who hired Styles as a teenager, Mandeville owner Simon Wakefield, said he was “a really nice guy, very easy going and down to earth”.

The budding singer was always on time and pleasant to customers, he revealed.

When Styles got an audition for The X Factor, he asked Wakefield if he could take a turn off. “I said, ‘Yeah, no problem, just do it,'” Wakefield said.

“And it just came from there.

“It just goes to show that it can happen to anyone, at any time.”

From village life to world fame

Getty Images (LR) Singers Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson of One Direction attend the season finale of Fox's 'The X Factor' at CBS Television City on December 20, 2012.fake images

This is what the members of One Direction were like during the band’s heyday

Styles soon became one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.

He rose to fame in the boy band One Direction before launching a successful solo career, with hits including Watermelon Sugar and As It Was.

When he first auditioned for The X Factor, he described his hometown as “pretty boring” and added: “There’s not much going on there.”

But he admitted Holmes Chapel was “quaint”.

Now, the town has become a must-see for fans.

Holmes Chapel Partnership said more than 5,000 fans visited in 2023, almost equaling the village’s population of 6,700, and had previously visited Styles-related attractions marked on its free maps.

However, not all of the places Styles used to hang out have made the new tour.

Fortune City, the Chinese restaurant where he took fellow superstar Taylor Swift on a date, was too far away to include, organizers said.

A group of fans in front of the Twemlow Viaducton tour.

Twemlow Viaduct is one of the key attractions on the tour.

The 180-year-old Twemlow Viaduct is a must-see for Harries and is on the tour.

In addition to being the place where the singer had his first kiss, it is also where he wrote his name in the One Direction documentary, This is Us.

Fans have now covered Harry’s Wall, as it is known, with their own messages for him.

During the tour, they are encouraged to write on free chalkboard hearts, which they pick up from retailer Sam Dale and Son along the route.

Georgia, 18, wrote on her whiteboard: “Harry brought us together.”

She explained that she and her best friend Charlotte had “really bonded over Harry” and went to see him last year to celebrate his A-levels. “It was really a great experience,” she added.

‘Keep visitors safe’

Harry's Wall at Twemlow Viaduct, where fans have left tributes to the singer

Over the years, fans have left hundreds of messages for Harry Styles on the viaduct.

Behind all this, there is an important safety message.

The two-and-a-half-hour tours, which cost ¬£20 a head, were born out of the Holmes Chapel Partnership’s campaign for safe walking routes throughout the village.

In the past, fans reached the viaduct by crossing a busy road, but locals say it is dangerous.

By taking visitors on a traffic-free route, tour organizers hope to keep them safe.

When the tours were announced, Peter Whiers, president of Holmes Chapel Partnership, said they loved the “enthusiasm people have for Harry.”

But he added it was a fine line to balance excited fans and the reality of a “historic town dating back to the 15th century.”

“So this year we are taking a new route to keep visitors safe by organizing guided tours of popular Harry spots,” he said.

Tours will take place on Saturday mornings beginning June 8 and weekdays from July to September.

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