Watch out EastEnders, the hipsters are coming

Jan 28, 2014

Call for BBC soap opera to drag itself out of '1980s timewarp' and reflect contemporary London

THE Queen Vic – the pub that serves as the social hub in the long-running soap opera EastEnders - may soon have some unfamiliar-looking new regulars. 

The BBC has admitted that its popular drama has failed to reflect the changing face of London's East End - in particular the influx of young, fashionable professionals.

Dominic Treadwell-Collins, the soap's new executive producer, makes the admission in the latest edition of the Radio Times. He says the drama "should feel more like London. It's been frozen in aspic for too long."

When EastEnders was first broadcast in 1985, few would have forseen the transformation of areas such as Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Bethnal Green into some of London's most fashionable districts. The fact that 'Albert Square' - the fictional area where EastEnders is set - is still dominated by working class Cockneys bears little relation to reality.

Terraced houses on Fassett Square – the area of Hackney which was used as inspiration for Albert Square – now sell for about £700,000, The Independent says. And visitors to Hackney are just as likely to run into "nattily-attired hipsters" as they are to meet cheerful Cockneys.

The drama needs to "reflect the modern world", says Treadwell-Collins. He also wants it to be more about character and less about action.

"EastEnders has got to shake up the audience," he told the Radio Times. "We don't want to do cover versions of greatest hits. EastEnders has to sing new songs, otherwise it doesn't feel fresh. And it also has to be about people and feelings and emotions. I've never been a fan of blowing things up."

The Guardian reveals that the EastEnders writing team visited Fassett Square last week to get inspiration for the attempt to "drag the soap out of its 1980s timewarp".

While the BBC announced plans last week for a new, bigger EastEnders set at Elstree, about 13 miles north of London, TV experts don't expect a radical overhaul.

All About Soap editor, Johnathon Hughes, told the Guardian: "I don't think it's going to completely refocus itself into Hipster Square from Albert Square."

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If Eastenders were truly to reflect London's east end the Queen Vic would have been converted into a mosque ten years ago and Walford's Minute Mart would be a Tesco Express. No one would say a word to each other and no one would buy their wine from a pub. Barely anyone would in fact speak English as their first language.