Is Birmingham the ‘Soap Opera’ capital of England?

Crossroads, recording 'as live' in 1974

A panel of soap opera writers will be giving listeners the inside scoop on why they think Birmingham is the real ‘soap city’ at an event held in the city this week.

The panel will focus on the strong tradition of soaps that have been produced or fictionally set in or around Birmingham, from BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the world’s longest running radio drama, to BBC One’s Doctors, BBC Asian Network’s Silver Street and ITV’s Crossroads. The city also was home to Central TV’s Family Pride saga and BSB’s Jupiter Moon space-based soap!

“I think the city’s social diversity, its situation in the heart of the country, and of course the dedication and inventiveness of those employed on working on these shows has contributed to the city’s success in this respect. The Archers is still going strong, as is Doctors, which is made in the BBC Drama Village still present in the city.” – Dr Gregory Leadbetter, scriptwriter for Silver Street and Reader in Literature and Creative Writing at Birmingham City University

The audience can expect to hear about the way these shows are or were run, what it’s like to work on a long-running serial, and the craft of writing drama for TV and radio – all from the writers themselves.

Chaired by Helen Cross, award-winning novelist and Fellow of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University, the panel will feature scriptwriters Mary Cutler (The Archers, Crossroads), Gregory Leadbetter (Silver Street), Tim Stimpson (The Archers/Ambridge Extra) and Claire Bennett (Doctors).

‘Soap City’ is produced in partnership with the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. For more details and to book onto the event visit here. Part of Birmingham Literature Festival, ‘Soap City’ will take place at The Library of Birmingham on Friday 10th October from 6pm.

The Archers BBC

Soaps in the City:

1950 – The BBC pilot The Archers, the series is now the longest running soap in the world. (pictured above)

1964 – Crossroads, the UK’s first half hour daily soap is launched from Aston Cross in Birmingham. It runs until 1988, to make way for more drama production in the city such as Boon. (Crossroads, pictured top, 1974)

1974 – Crossroads launches ‘Crossroads Care’, now one of the biggest caring charities in the world.

1990 – Space based soap Jupiter Moon launches on BSB. It ends in the same year after just over 100 episodes.

1991 – Central Television launch Family Pride. Shown nationally on Channel 4 and locally in the Midlands on ITV. It runs until 1992

2000 – BBC One begins airing Doctors from the famous Pebble Mill studios in Edgbaston, the series continues to air daily in the daytime schedules.

2004 – Silver Street is launched by the BBC.

While London may claim to have produced many more serials, Birmingham has been home to some of the most successful. The Archers is still running after five decades, Crossroads ran for nearly twenty five years, Doctors is heading towards its 15th anniversary and Silver Street has been part of the soap landscape for a decade.

The series’ produced in the Midlands are also ratings and award winners. Crossroads was voted ITV programme of the year in 1967, Best Series in 1973, 74, 75 and 1976 by readers of The Sun and Daily Telegraph while its leading lady Noele Gordon to date has won more soap and television awards than any other actress in the genre. Doctors has won in total twenty awards including at the ITV Soap Awards and the Royal Television Society. (pictured below: Britain’s most successful soap opera star, Noele Gordon)

Noele Gordon, Britain's most successful soap opera star

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