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EastEnders to feature first gay bar on Albert Square

Sofia Lotto Persio January 1, 2019
Eastenders character Ben and Paul share a kiss in a 2016 episode—they would have enjoyed a gay bar on Albert Square

Eastenders Ben Mitchell and Paul Coker were a popular gay couple on the show, which is soon to feature a gay bar. (Kieron McCarron/BBC)

Albert Square’s first gay bar will open soon on EastEnders, a move meant to help the BBC show reflect London’s diversity more accurately.

The show’s new boss Kate Oates, who recently revamped ITV’s Coronation Street and was keen to point out that a gay kiss should not be considered “shocking television,” wants to add more LGBT+ characters, too.

“I’m really interested in bringing some more LGBTQ characters in,” she told The Sun in an interview published on Monday (December 31).

“We’re 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,” Oates continues, adding: “It should be something really exciting, really fun, really visual and feel really true to multi-cultural London.”

EastEnders aired first gay kiss three decades ago

EastEnders first introduced a gay character—Colin Russell, played by Michael Cashman, in 1986. It was Colin who was first involved in the show’s first gay kiss, broadcasted 30 years ago.

“We’re 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.”

— Kate Oates

The brief, chaste peck on the lips between Colin and his boyfriend Guido Smith (Nicholas Donovan) caused an uproar in 1989 Britain, where the government of Margaret Thatcher had recently introduced Section 28, a controversial law banning local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality.

A headline from The Sun reported by the BBC read: “Furious MPs last night demanded a ban on EastEnders as the BBC soap showed two men kissing full on the lips. The homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs was screened in the early evening when millions of children were watching.”

Eastenders lesbian kiss between Tiffany Butcher and Bernie
Tiffany Butcher (left) and Bernie shared a kiss on Tuesday’s EastEnders. (BBC)

In the past three decades, several other LGBT+ characters came out on EastEnders. The show also tackled issues such as homophobic crime, which ended in tragedy the romance between the popular gay couple Ben Mitchell and Paul Coker.

EastEnders gay bar to provide backdrop to new storylines

While in 2017 Albert Square’s iconic pub the Queen Vic celebrated 50th years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, a gay bar would be a first for EastEnders residents.

“It’s an important move for the show to authentically reflect modern London life,” Oates said.

An unnamed source told The Sun that EastEnders producers are looking to use the gay bar as the backdrop to new storylines.

EastEnders character Bernie came out to her mum Karen.
EastEnders viewers were delighted to see Karen’s reaction to her daughter Bernie’s coming out.

EastEnders viewers are currently following the development of the friendship between Bernadette “Bernie” Taylor (Clair Norris) and Tiffany “Tiff” Butcher (Maisie Smith). The two have already shared a few kisses, but it is unclear whether Tiff reciprocates Bernie’s romantic feelings.

Bernie confessed to her mother Karen Taylor (Lorraine Stanley) she is “in love… with a girl” in the episode aired on December 31. In the touching coming out scene, Karen welcomes her daughter news and tells her: “You are who you are, my darling. And I’m so proud of you.”

 

More: Albert Square, Bernadette “Bernie” Taylor, EastEnders, Kate Oates

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