Over three decades after featuring the first same-sex kiss, Eastenders is ready to introduce a venue for Albert Square’s LGBTI community.
A senior producer of the iconic UK soap opera has announced plans to open a gay bar in the fictional London borough of Walford.
Kate Oates, who recently became the popular BBC One show’s senior executive producer, spoke of her plans to represent the diversity and multiculturalism of the UK’s city while addressing questions from fans in a video on Twitter.
‘I am … really interested in bringing some more LGBTQ characters in, and maybe we will have a new precinct for them as well,’ Oates said in the video.
‘We are looking at opening a gay bar on the square, which will be a super-cool precinct where gay and straight characters can all just hang out and loads of stories can cross and should just be something really exciting, really fun, really visual and feel really true to multicultural London.
‘Hopefully, that will be something exciting for the next year.’
You asked the questions. Kate Oates, our new Senior Executive Producer, provided the answers. Enjoy a taste of what lies ahead in Walford for 2019! #AskKateOates #EastEnders pic.twitter.com/krKruPIQVF
— BBC EastEnders (@bbceastenders) January 1, 2019
One of the UK’s most popular soap operas, Eastenders has prided itself on reflecting the cultural diversity of modern-day London.
The show was also one of the first prime-time entertainment shows in Britain to include LGBTI representation.
In 1987, the soap featured the first same-sex kiss when one male character gave another a peck on the forehead.
The show upped the ante the following year when it featured a male couple kissing on the lips.
In both instances, the show received backlash from large swathes of the British public and media, according to the Guardian.
The Sun, one of Britain’s top-selling tabloid newspapers, ran the headline ‘EastBenders’ for the first kiss, and described the second as a ‘homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs […] when millions of children were watching’.
Questions were even raised in the UK parliament about the appropriateness of prime-time TV featuring same-sex kissing.
Representation of a changing society
Oates has previously said that the same-sex kisses featured in Eastenders as helping to change British society.
Other popular British soap operas would go onto feature LGBTI representation, such as a pre-watershed lesbian kiss on Brookside in 1994.
Although Britain has become far more LGBTI-friendly in the years since, a kiss between two of Eastenders’ male characters in 2008 drew more than 100 complaints.
Oates has been credited as introducing difficult storylines, such as male rape and sexual grooming, in her previous tenure as a producer at another of the UK’s most popular soaps, Coronation Street. While they were controversial upon airing, they also helped the show attain some of its highest ratings in years.
For the show’s New Year’s Eve episode, Eastenders included a female character telling her mother ‘I think I’m in love […] with a girl’.
Not quite the reflection of the London’s LGBTI bar scene
While fictional east-end London borough might be seeing its first gay bar opening soon, the same cannot be said for its real-world counterpart.
LGBTI bars in London have experienced closures en mass over recent years. The capital has seen property prices soar, and prime locations snapped-up by developers.
The Queen’s Head in Chelsea, one of the oldest gay bars in the city, closed in 2016. The Shadow Lounge, located in Soho, also closed in the same year.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Kahn, said that city officials were working to combat the issue.
In 2017, London Night Czar Amy Lamé stepped in at the last minute to save Molly Moggs from closure. The bar later re-opened as The Compton Cross.