January 28, 2023

Before the days of reality TV and social media, there was one way to keep up with the latest gossip: go to the hair salon.

And the conversations in the salon were so interesting that they became the subject of the 1994 television documentary Three Salons at the Seaside.

Now the 40 minute long episode which focuses on three hairdressers in Blackpool has proven to be a hit once again after being put on BBC iPlayer.

The program focused on the owners and clients of Vanity Box, Mary’s Way and Tricia’s salons.

Before the days of reality TV and social media, there was one way to keep up with the latest gossip: go to the hair salon. And the conversations in the salon were so interesting that they became the subject of the award-winning 1994 television documentary Three Salons at the Seaside (above).

It was directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, who is now known for directing episodes of shows including Call the Midwife and The Crown.

In one exchange, two women are seen in Vanity Box fixing their hair while discussing how one of them was injured and needed stitches after “a woman knocked me down outside of Quicksave.”

When her friend asks where she got hurt, the 80-year-old replies: ‘I had to have stitches in my head. I have had to walk with a cane ever since.

She adds: ‘I was supposed to go to the hospital. The nurse at the doctor’s office pulled out two.

‘She said to come back. I went up to Hilary and Hilary said, “I’ll get those stitches out of you.” So Hilary removed them.

In another, a Mary’s Way hairdresser is seen arguing with a client about Coronation Street star Lynne Perrie, who played Ivy Tilsley, after undergoing plastic surgery.

The hairdresser said, ‘Oooh, it doesn’t look horrible, it looks like a squirrel, doesn’t it!’

When her client said ‘there was nothing wrong with her at first’, she added: ‘Oh, I was, I was. She had wrinkles on her cheeks. They left.

But I’m sure they’ve hurt his mouth. Horrible.’

In a third exchange, Hilary of Vanity Box talks to a client about a couple who had ‘new windows’.

The client, whose hair is in curlers, says, ‘I couldn’t believe it.’

She adds: ‘I applied to see if I could get a grant, and they said no. And she’s on social media and she gets [the] a lot… it’s a shame.

Mary Burney, 75, who ran Mary’s Way until her retirement in 2011, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We didn’t know about these wall-flying things they do now, and we couldn’t understand why anyone would want to filming ourselves doing what we do every day.

“But it was terribly interesting and everyone was lovely. And when you met Philippa, you realized that she was very talented and she was very smart. And it was fun.

In another exchange, a Mary's Way hairdresser is seen arguing with a client about a Coronation Street star who had allegedly had plastic surgery. She said, 'Oooh, it doesn't look horrible, it looks like a squirrel, doesn't it!'

In another exchange, a Mary’s Way hairdresser is seen arguing with a client about a Coronation Street star who had allegedly had plastic surgery. She said, ‘Oooh, it doesn’t look horrible, it looks like a squirrel, doesn’t it!’

Ms Lowhorpe added: “It was one of those things where I really wanted women to talk on TV because that’s how I grew up in Yorkshire hearing my aunts talk like that.”

‘And there was a challenge because a colleague of mine said that nobody would be interested in a movie like that.

“And we went to Blackpool, we sat at different hairdressers and we met Mary, who was so warm and funny and witty.

‘The hairdresser performed a social service to the community. It was about more than just getting her hair done, it was about life and death and everything else.’

Since doing Three Salons, Ms. Lowthorpe has tried to feature a hairdresser scene in every movie or series she’s done.

In The Crown, Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth is seen getting her hair done in the second season.

Tricia’s and Vanity Box have closed since Three Salons aired, while Mary’s Way is now an outlet called Salon K.

Three Salons was selected this year as one of the best documentaries of the last 50 years by the Grierson Trust charity, which promotes documentary filmmaking.

It prompted the BBC to remove it from its archive.

Mary's Way, which was run by Mary Burney until 2011, is seen above in the BBC documentary.

Mary’s Way, which was run by Mary Burney until 2011, is seen above in the BBC documentary.

Tricia's was another medium featured in the hit BBC documentary, which is now on iPlayer.

Tricia’s was another medium featured in the hit BBC documentary, which is now on iPlayer.

Vanity Box also appeared on the show. Hairdressers Hilary and Joyce were among the staff.

Vanity Box also appeared on the show. Hairdressers Hilary and Joyce were among the staff.

Fans on social media have been singing the show’s praises.

One wrote: “I urge anyone over a certain age, especially if you’re a Northerner or a Victoria Wood fan (you’ll see what I mean if you watch it) to give it a try.” It’s absolutely wonderful.

Another called it ‘BBC documentary production at its finest’, adding: ‘It’s somewhat humbling to listen to such stoic working-class women, many of whom would have lived through two world wars and a great depression.

‘Now loneliness. The silent strength of the women of a hard age.’

A third said the show reminded them of their own mother, who “visited her hairdresser every Friday to catch up on the latest gossip” and “had her shampoo and set.”

In April, Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Harriet Walter did a parody version of Three Salons, called Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport, in their mockumentary series Documentary Now.

The episode was filmed in Mrs. Burney’s old drawing room.

In April, Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett (right) and Harriet Walter did a parody version of Three Salons, called Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport, in their mockumentary series Documentary Now. The episode was filmed in Mrs. Burney's old parlor, which is now called Parlor K.

In April, Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett (right) and Harriet Walter did a parody version of Three Salons, called Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport, in their mockumentary series Documentary Now. The episode was filmed in Mrs. Burney’s old parlor, which is now called Parlor K.