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Byline: Graeme Whitfield

A FEW years ago I lived with a mate who went into our newsagent each week to buy two magazines: Inside Soap and Rugby World.

Each week our jovial newsagent would chuckle at him and say: "For your girlfriend, is it?", indicating the mag about soap operas. "Yeah," my mate would laugh back, but he was a bit of a fibber, because the truth was that he was into soap operas while his girlfriend - now his wife, and a lovely woman to boot - is a big rugby fan.

I probably would have done the same under the circumstances. We live in a world where sometimes it is simpler not to challenge gender stereotypes, at least not at your corner shop.

I was reminded of Inside Soap magazine recently when I read that it had celebrated its 20th anniversary by naming the best 20 moments in soap operas ever. In a move that will probably surprise no one, the Tyneside-based soap Quayside was not mentioned at all.

Does anyone remember Quayside? As I was living with my soap-loving friend at the time, I watched every episode - there were only 17 of them, the internet handily tells me - and even I can't remember a bally thing beyond an odd theme tune which ended with someone whispering the word "Quay-side" mysteriously.

I have vague recollections that there was some sort of office on Dog Bank and scenes on a housing estate in Gateshead. The boxer Glenn McCrory had a minor role and there was a woman with curly hair who was fairly important. But as for storylines and characters - sorry, nothing really stuck. Quayside was an ill-advised attempt for Newcastle to muscle in on the soap opera action that brings so much attention to other major cities. If EastEnders can work in London (and Coronation Street/Emmerdale/Brookside in Manchester/Yorkshire/Liverpool), why can't we have a soap opera on Tyneside, went the argument.

No reason at all, of course, except that it was so terribly rubbish. Storylines creaked like woodwork from the 18th Century, though it hardly mattered as the project was doomed from the start by the hubristic decision to put Quayside on ITV, directly in competition with EastEnders in the 7.30pm time slot. No other ITV regions would touch it and I think it got about eight viewers in Tyne Tees (seven if me and my mate were out as he was taping EastEnders). Done properly, a soap opera set in Newcastle could be rather good. As it was, most people don't really believe me when I tell them that it actually existed.

Graeme Whitfield
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 20, 2012
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