Looking back at Brookside dramas

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Brookside opening titles © Channel 4

With Brookside celebrating its 30th anniversary this week, JMU Journalism looks back at what made the Liverpool-based soap such a huge, ground-breaking and controversial success.

Brookside began on Channel 4’s launch night on 2nd November 1982, and ran for 21 years. Originally intended to be called Meadowcroft, the Liverpool show was different from all other soaps, as it was filmed in real houses on a cul-de-sac, situated off Deysbrook Lane in West Derby.

The houses have now been renovated and we reported last year that people are renting the very homes used in the long-running programme.

Brookside got its highest ratings of nine million in 1994, when it showed British television’s first pre-watershed lesbian kiss, between Beth Jordache, played by Anna Friel, and Margaret Clemence, played by Nicola Stephenson.

The show earned a reputation for controversial storylines, including the infamous patio burial of the murdered psychopath Trevor Jordache, while the series also caused an uproar when it featured a consensual incestuous sexual relationship between a brother and sister in 1996.

Brookside had a smaller ensemble cast than other soaps, focusing on just six households including the Grant family, featuring breakthrough performances by Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, who went onto further fame while also playing a married couple in The Royle Family.

Professor Phil Redmond © LJMU

The early cast featured only 16 characters and it would be a full year before the focal six houses in Brookside Close became fully occupied.

This was intentional as the show’s creator, Phil Redmond, wanted to reflect the pace of a real life ‘new-build’ estate occupancy.

Phil Redmond, who grew up in Huyton, also created Grange Hill and Channel 4’s biggest current soap Hollyoaks, and was the mastermind behind Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year in 2008.

He is also a Professor in Media Studies at Liverpool John Moores University, and the university’s new Redmonds Building on Brownlow Hill was named after him and his wife Alexis.

To coincide with Brookside’s 30th anniversary, Redmond has released an autobiography, ‘Mid-Term Report’, which is out now in hardback priced £18.99.