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Brookie: A few LGBT ‘firsts’ and a kiss that went global

5 February 2016 by Matt

Phil Redmond sitting by a 'Brookside Close' street sign

© Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

Working on the Pride and Prejudice project means that I spend a lot of my time thinking about the story of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans people in Liverpool. February is LGBT History Month in the United Kingdom and this means a whole month where a lot of people are thinking about the history of LGBT people.

Sometimes LGBT history can crop up in rather unexpected places. Did you know that the Liverpool-based soap opera Brookside was responsible for a few LGBT ‘firsts’ not just in the UK but internationally? 

This photograph shows Professor Phil Redmond CBE, the current chair of National Museums Liverpool, on the set of Brookside Close, the soap opera he created in 1982. From the start Brookside addressed subjects that other series thought too gritty, such as the strikes and redundancies which were commonplace in Liverpool under the Conservative government of the 1980s.

Brookside is responsible for two LGBT ‘firsts’. In 1985 it became the first television series in the UK to include an openly gay character. The storyline began when a copy of the Gay Times was mistakenly delivered to the Corkhill Household rather than to Gordon Collins, the teenage son of Paul and Annabelle. Anabelle also found out that Gordon had been in a relationship with his school friend, Chris. Though Paul and Annabelle Collins struggled to accept their son’s homosexuality they eventually did, though they retained a sense of embarrassment over it until they left the Close in 1990. The storyline was ground-breaking for the mid 1980s, being aired at a time when, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, up to 75% of the British public considered homosexual acts to be “always or mostly wrong”.

The second ‘first’ happened in 1994 when Brookside became the first television programme in the UK to air a kiss between two women before the watershed. In January 1995 the characters of Beth Jordache, played by Anna Friel, and Margaret Clemence, played by Nicola Stephenson, shared a kiss. The scene caused complaints when first aired but even more complaints were received when the scene was dropped from the omnibus. The clip was used in a montage at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics and was screened without censorship in 76 countries where homosexuality is still illegal, making it the first same-sex kiss ever shown on television in these countries.

It has been 13 years since Brookside was still regularly on our televisions but Phil Redmond continues to hint, “It could come back in some form – never say never”. Maybe sometime soon we’ll find out what happened to Gordon Collins, thirty years after he was outed to his parents? Maybe Beth and Margaret found true and lasting love in the twenty years since their kiss rocked the world? In the words of Phil Redmond, “never say never”!

Find out more about some of the incredible stories of LGBT people represented in the Museum of Liverpool in our special LGBT History Month tours, on Wednesday 17 February at 1.30pm and on Sunday 28 February at 11.30am.

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