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‘Groundbreaking’ Brookside rape story to be reshown

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‘Groundbreaking’ Brookside rape story to be reshown

Brookside’s “groundbreaking” rape storyline is to be reshown in full for the first time in almost four decades.

Individual episodes of the storyline have been shown since it first aired in 1986, but streaming service STV Player is to allow viewers to watch all parts together for the first time in 38 years, on July 3.

The episodes tell the story of Sue Johnston’s character, Sheila Grant, being attacked and raped after getting out of a taxi on Brookside Close, and go on to show the emotional impact on Grant and her family, as well as the hunt for her attacker.

STV Player acquired the rights to show the classic soap in February 2023, and has been releasing five episodes on the platform every Wednesday, in chronological order.

The platform’s viewers have now reached July 1986, meaning they have watched the equivalent of three-and-a-half years of the show’s original timeline.

Brookside was one of the first TV soaps to show a rape storyline, with other early depictions coming in US series General Hospital, in 1979, and in EastEnders in 1988, with the rape of Kathy Beale.

Following the storyline, Johnston, who also starred in the Royle Family, said filming it had helped her to speak out about a real-life attack which happened to her.

She told ITV in a 2018 interview: “I was slightly nervous about it, because I had in my own life, when I was 27, been sexually attacked.

“I was attacked from behind, and he ran, and I could hear him, and I turned around and I could see him at the side of this bridge, and I realised how lonely it was.

“The drama was going to happen and this guy was going to run up behind me, and grab me and drag me into these bushes.

“I was frightened that I would lose control, because I still – even to this day – can’t have anybody run up behind me.

“It was almost like drama therapy, because I’d got rid of this fear and I could talk about it, I hadn’t talked about it, I’d never told my parents.”

In her autobiography, Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother, the actor said she had told the series’ producers that she would only perform in the scenes if they were “done with the sensitivity it deserves”.

She explained: “I was adamant we shouldn’t just produce a sensationalist piece of television.

“What we screened had to represent what women who had been raped went through. I knew the shame and trauma that stemmed from such a violation.

“We went to the Rape Crisis centre in Liverpool and heard first-hand some of the awful attacks the women had suffered.

“We also witnessed the great work carried out there – although then, as today, rape was a crime with a shockingly low conviction rate.”

In her book, Johnston goes on to explain that she received “hundreds of letters” from women, who wanted to share their own experiences having seen the story.

STV Player said the “groundbreaking” plot was the first “landmark” storyline to be released on the service.

Richard Williams, managing director of Digital at STV, said: “Brookside was, and remains, renowned for its gritty realism and for not being afraid to shine a light on issues that were so often ignored on television when it was first shown forty years ago.

“The rape of Sheila Grant was a landmark moment, not just in Brookside, but in British TV itself.

“The wider conversations the storyline provoked at the time were testament to Sue Johnston’s powerful performance, as well as the sensitive scripting of the Brookside writers.

“Four decades on, we’re pleased to be giving a platform to this significant storyline and the important issues it highlights.”

Anyone affected by the issues in the episodes, should contact the Rape Crisis charity’s 24 hour helpline on 08085002222.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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