Next year, Hollyoaks is set to tackle a serious issue…
Hollyoaks has confirmed that they will be exploring child criminal exploitation through county lines next year. The storyline will run for a full year, so viewers are able to get real insight into the long-term impact.
"County lines" is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, exploiting children and vulnerable people as a result.
Working closely alongside charity The Children’s Society, they’ll be using school-age children and teen characters in an effort to get beyond the headlines, crime stats and police reports, and closely examine the impact on real families and real children.
Hollyoaks characters, Juliet (Niamh Blackshaw), Charlie (Charlie Behan), Sid (Billy Price) and Ella (Erin Palmer) will be groomed to carry out criminal activity.
Matriarchs Nancy (Jessica Fox), Leela (Kirsty Leigh Porter), Marnie (Lysette Anthony) and Mandy (Sarah Jayne Dunn) will fight to protect their children, as they get involved in the dangerous world of county lines.
The first episode exploring this will be an hour-long ‘flash forward’ one, airing on Friday 27th December on E4, and Monday 30th December on Channel 4.
Viewers will see a glimpse of New Year’s Eve 2020, showing how much has changed in a year for the young teens of Hollyoaks village, alongside their families.
Hollyoaks Executive Producer Bryan Kirkwood has revealed that these episodes will also raise awareness of the dangers of carrying knives. One of these scenes includes a knife being dropped into an evidence bag in a flash forward.
Bryan said: “Hollyoaks has a good model for telling real-life stories that are happening to our audience right now. We have a strong and award-winning formula of how to talk to young people without them feeling lectured.
“A recent statistic found that 40 per cent of people who watch Hollyoaks watch it in a traditional way, at home with family or friends. So, we are in a very strong position to start vital conversations in the living room.
“County lines child exploitation is terrifying and every month the writers come in telling stories of their children’s schools on lock-down, or weapons being confiscated. It’s in the news and in our court systems. We want young people and parents to know the signs and what to do if you think it’s happening to your child or someone they know.”
The Hollyoaks team has worked alongside children’s charity The Children’s Society to make these episodes happen. This charity works with some of the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people, including those effected by child criminal exploitation.
To advise on storylines, they have attended sessions with cast members and families to ensure everything is explained sensitively, and in a way that younger cast members feel comfortable with.
Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said, “Day in day out we see the devastating impact that criminal exploitation and grooming of children through county lines operations has upon young lives.
“These criminals groom children into trafficking their drugs for them with promises of money, friendship and status. Once they've been drawn in, these children are controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear.
“This can happen to any child in any community and we applaud the bold move by Hollyoaks to shine a light upon this serious issue by bringing it to a fictional suburb of what is seen as a relatively affluent city.
“We welcome the opportunity to offer advice to the writers and cast to help ensure the story is portrayed in a way which shows the terrifying reality of exploitation.”
Hollyoaks has also confirmed that “All stories are fully complied and edited for broadcast suitability in the 18:30 time slot and programme support will be attached to the relevant episodes.”
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