With EastEnders celebrating 30 years we look at ten Norfolk connections to the BBC soap
- Credit: PA
Self-confessed super-fan and TV reviewer STACIA BRIGGS celebrates 30 years of EastEnders by looking at 10 Norfolk connections to the soap opera.
Ten Norfolk connections to EastEnders:
1) Ross 'Grant' Kemp hails from Norfolk, Steve 'Phil' McFadden spent his childhood in King's Lynn and Pam 'Pat' St Clement owned a North Norfolk retreat.
2) Long before Masood Ahmed was Walford's postman, Glen McKay from Fakenham did the rounds.
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3) The deeply-religious Tavernier family sold up and left E20 for a simpler life in Norfolk, claiming they wanted to live 'a simpler life' (offence taken). The Taverniers were Celestine, Etta, Hattie, Clyde, Lloyd and Jules – there were some deeply dodgy scenes allegedly filmed on 'a Norwich housing estate' around the time of Hattie's pregnancy. I would stake my life that it wasn't Norwich shown.
4) Kelvin Carpenter (Paul J Medford) made a swift exit shortly after releasing a dismal record with Letitia Dean (Sharon). His character came to the University of East Anglia to start a degree and he was never heard of again.
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5) The Miller family moved to Norfolk in 2006 after matriarch Rosie found a job as a housekeeper
6) Here's some niche knowledge: Kathy Beale-Mitchell came to Norwich to train as a Samaritan and stayed with her brother Ted, who lived in the city with his children Tony and Sarah. Tony and Sarah moved to Walford in 1995. If you know this, you know too much about EastEnders.
7) In the summer of 1998, the East End boys and girls came to the county for a budget break in the Broads – eight cast members and 50 crew members descended on the county for a week to film three episodes.
8) Norfolk writer Lilie Ferrari, who worked on EastEnders in the 1980s and 1990s, helped create the di Marco family and met them when they visited the county. She recalls: 'I met them in a hotel in Norwich. I was heavily involved in creating that family – my surname is Ferrari and they are an Italian family. I remember them walking into the hotel and calling me 'mama'.'
9) Despite playing a character who battles the booze on screen, Steve McFadden raised a glass at the Wood's End in Bramerton when he reopened the waterside pub in 1997: 'I suppose I am a pretty obvious choice when it comes to opening a pub with the amount of drinking I do on EastEnders!' he told me.
10) Joel Beckett, who lives in North Norfolk, played Jake Moon from 2004 to 2006. When he's not working, he loves dinner at The Duck at Stanhoe (I follow him on Twitter. I'm planning to take his recommendation and visit soon).
There are soap operas I have watched and then abandoned – Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Doctors, Home and Away, Neighbours – and there are those I have stuck with religiously from the very first episode and EastEnders is one of them (the other was Brookside, RIP).
When the first episode aired on February 19 1985, I was watching in my parents' front room and from the same sofa in the same room I joined 30 million other viewers watching the Christmas Den/Angi showdown in 1986, the highest-rated soap episode in UK television history.
When the EastEnders upped its episode count to three Walford visits a week in 1994, I was watching from my rented house in Norwich and when it added a fourth episode I'd just returned to work after the birth of my son. I know who shot Phil, who shot Ian, who shot Jane and who kidnapped Dawn. I know all about Peggy's cancer, Carol's cancer, Stan's cancer, Ethel's cancer, Tanya's cancer, Patrick's stroke, Joe's schizophrenia, Ben's sociopathic tendencies, Mad May the baby-snatching doctor, Nasty Nick, Cruella Stella, Mary the Punk, Cindy the psychopath and Wham!-loving Heather.
I know intimate secrets about the Beales, the Brannings, the Carters, the Cokers, the Cottons, the Fowlers, the Foxes, the Jacksons, the Masoods, the Mitchells, the Moons, the Slaters, the Watts and the market traders, I could list the number of lines Tracey the barmaid has had over the years.
I remember Little Mo clobbering Trevor with an iron, Pauline clobbering Arthur with a frying pan, two Branning marriages imploding thanks to one dodgy DVD, no one's wedding ever going to plan, Janine killing Barry, Chrissie, Sam and Zoe killing Den, Stacey killing Archie, Steve killing Saskia and Nick Berry killing music when he released Every Loser Wins.
For better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, I have loved and cherished EastEnders and will do until death us do part.
Happy birthday, EastEnders (and for the record, my money is on Abi Branning having killed Lucy. It's her or Jake Stone. Or one of the others. It wasn't me, honest guv – I was at home watching EastEnders at the time it happened).
My favourite EastEnders' moments:
1) Ethel Skinner shuffles off this mortal coil: favourite might be the wrong word – 'most memorable' might be better. Firecracker Ethel returned to Walford in 2000 having done a bunk from her retirement home. She told Dot, a friend from childhood, that she had terminal cancer and had come home to die in the place she loved most – but she needed her help. Dot fought with her Christian beliefs but agreed to help – as Ethel prepared to swallow a stash of morphine tablets, she told her friend: 'You know who you are? You're the best friend I ever had.' Not a dry eye in the house.
2) Max Branning is buried alive: In one of the show's more surreal moments in 2008, Tanya Branning reacted to news that her husband had been having an affair with his son's fiancée by, er, burying him alive in a coffin in the woods. I'm still not entirely sure if this means that he's actually a zombie.
3) Practically any scene with Janine Butcher in it (1999-2014).
4) Crazy Joe (1997): EastEnders has handled a huge range of difficult issues with sensitivity and tact. Joe Wicks' mental illness was not one of these times – the script had him trying to communicate with aliens, wearing tin foil accessories and keeping a dead cat in a shoebox.
5) Mitchellgate: Grant Mitchell reveals his beloved wife's infidelity at his brother Phil's engagement party to Kathy in 1994. He plays a cassette tape confession in which Sharon unwittingly tells Michelle that she's slept with her brother-in-law Phil. Awkward.
6) Colin and Barry: There were actually questions asked in Parliament after EastEnders showed a gay couple sharing a kiss… on the forehead in 1987. Colin Russell (Michael Cashman) and Barry Clark (Gary Hailes) were a fantastic two-fingered, prime-time salute to homophobes.
7) 'You aint my muvver!' 'Yes I am!': Zoe Slater had grown up thinking that Kat was her older sister – but in 2001, when Zoe revealed to Kat that she planned to go and live with her Uncle Harry, the truth emerged: Kat had been sexually abused by Harry and had his baby (Zoe) at 13.
8) Frank Butcher naked: Once seen (2000), never forgotten.
9) Phil Mitchell on crack cocaine (2010): Steve McFadden is PHENOMENAL at playing drunk/drug-addled. Even if some of it is unintentionally hilarious (see: Phil dancing to The Who in his front room and making Ben cornflakes with vodka instead of milk).
10) Any time Julia's Theme is used during the end credits – the music that concludes either a sad episode or an even rarer very happy episode and which signals a narrative closure, as we in the word trade say, like massive ninnies. See: Frank Butcher's funeral, the end of Carol Jackson and David Wicks' love story, Nana Moon's death etc. Not Wellard the dog's death, though. Travesty.