Whatever Happened to Brookside?

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Remember TV soap Brookside? It was the first soap to be shot entirely on location. It got axed from Channel Four a few years ago but the set remains. I took these photos there today.

DSCN0564Brookside  began on the launch night of Channel 4 on 2 November 1982, and ran for 21 years until 4 November 2003. The series was produced by Mersey Television and it was conceived by Phil Redmond. It became very successful for a number of years and is notable for its tackling of realistic and socially challenging storylines. It was at its most popular in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

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The above shot shows what was the security post which used to prevent the public entering the set, now abandoned and boarded up. When Brookside was removed from prime-time Channel 4, Mersey Television immediately started using some of the houses on Brookside Close in its other shows Hollyoaks and Grange Hill. Following the sale of Mersey Television to All3Media in 2005, all the properties on Brookside Close became surplus to requirements so all the Hollyoaks characters based at this set quickly transferred to new homes at Mersey Television’s Childwall site. The entire set was sold to a developer who then stripped, gutted and attempted to rebuild the entire interior of each of the 13 houses before making them available for sale to the public in January 2007. The houses were put up for sale at ridiculously high asking prices and in a semi-finished condition. They did not sell and the developer went into receivership soon after. The set then became neglected and fell into decay. Over a year later in February 2008, it was revealed by the auctioneers SHM Smith Hodgkinson that they would be taking offers for the 13 houses, considering bids in the region of £2 million.

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In 2008, Brookside Close was once again used as a production set; a local production company was given special permission to use the Close, but this time for a low-budget horror film called Salvage. This was the last time the famous houses of Brookside Close were ever used as a set for a TV or film production.

It was then reported in November 2008 that the 13 properties were to be auctioned off collectively. There was speculation at this time that the series may be resurrected as Dean Sullivan (who played Jimmy Corkhill) had himself attempted to purchase the Close to revive Brookside. However, an unnamed Liverpool-based buyer purchased all 13 properties on 17 December 2008 for although by this time, the Close was in a state of disrepair and once again, speculation mounted as to what would happen to the disintegrating houses of Brookside Close.

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Eventually, in February 2011, and after years of building work, Brookside Close was finally revived and returned to its former glory. Each house was restored from what was technically an individual film set, to a real home, fit for real-life occupancy. Now aligned and fully integrated into the housing estate that has always surrounded it, ‘Brookside Close’ is now simply Brookside (odd numbers: 43–67) and real residents now occupy the houses. It is therefore highly unlikely that one of the UK’s most famous housing estates will ever be used in a film or TV production again.

Looking at the place today, it brings back memories of when I used to watch the show in the mid-eighties. At that time, it was a really good, well-written drama and it was painful to watch it decline into a third-rate teen soap over subsequent years. Phil Redmond did nothing to save the show from terminal decline, in fact he helped to push it over the cliff of extinction by doing what he always does in TV drama and opting for cheap explosions, sensationalism and ratings-chasing storylines disguised as social commentary. He has to be one of the most overrated TV writers in history. At least the place has now been saved from demolition and is home to real people as opposed to ludicrous, cardboard versions.

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