Roddy Buxton explores the unusual technical arrangements that existed on the Brookside set and looks at the fate of the real Brookside Close in Liverpool.
It is now 25 years since Channel 4 began broadcasting. Centrepiece of the first schedule in 1982 was a new Merseyside set soap, called Brookside. This introduced us to life in a a small close located in the suburbs of Liverpool.
The show was created by Phil Redmond, up until then known for creating the children's series Grange Hill on the BBC and more latterly known for bringing Hollyoaks to the small screen.
Brookside Close was in fact a newly-constructed cul-de-sac consisting of 13 houses - six of which would be seen on-screen as sets and another seven that would house the administration, post-production, canteen, make-up and technical facilities for cast and crew. In later years a further seven properties in the immediate area were also purchased.
Phil Redmond (pictured above) broke away from the Coronation Street and Crossroads technique of constructing sets within a studio, in order to bring more realism to this pioneering series. The scheme to purchase actual houses would cover costs if the show was a commercial failure, the houses then being sold off to clear possible debt.
The small cul-de-sac in the Croxteth Park area of Liverpool was purchased by Mersey Television in early 1982. The technical areas were kitted out ready for production work to begin during the summer of that year. The fact that 'The Close' was sandwiched into a real life housing estate also made the show much more authentic than traditional studio based serials had been.
The technical facilities installed on site ensured that all aspects of production work could be carried out at 'The Close' itself. The first floor of one house contained the vision mixing gallery (above), and was knocked through to the next house, which in turn contained the VTR and post production areas. Few viewers realised the unusual nature of the technical arrangements appertaining, compared to other UK drama productions of the time.
After a very long and successful run, Brookside was eventually axed due to dwindling ratings and the last episode was broadcast on November 4th 2003 after 21 years on the air.
For a number of years after this the area was mothballed but parts were used as sets for Hollyoaks, the other ongoing Mersey TV soap.
In 2005 Mersey TV was bought by production company All3Media and the cul-de-sac sold off to developers who gutted all 13 houses and re-built each interior, putting them on the market in January 2007. The cheapest were numbers 7 and 8 which sold for a remarkably low £199,000; and most expensive, No 10, also the most famous of the houses, sold for £295,000.