Soap’s most controversial storylines

David Brown looks back at the biggest taboo-busters in soap history...

As the British Soap Awards airs on TV, we’re celebrating the power of soaps with ten storylines that had the nation gasping…



In 1963, outraged Coronation Street fans got wind of plans to have Sheila Birtles commit suicide. The plot was hastily rewritten, Sheila survived, new scenes were shot and the suicide went unaired until The Corrie Years documentary finally showed it in 2011.

Gay Kiss

EastEnders’ Colin gave boyfriend Barry a kiss on the forehead in 1987. Two years later, Colin kissing new love Guido became the first mouth-on-mouth gay kiss on British TV.

Child mother

At just 13 years old, Corrie’s Sarah-Louise Platt gave birth to Bethany in 2000. More teen mum drama followed in 2015 for Faye Windass and daughter Miley.


Channel 4 was ordered to broadcast an apology in 1996 after Brookside siblings Nat and Georgia were shown cuddling in bed.

Child murder

Days before transmission, Hollyoaks axed a 2009 storyline in which Loretta Jones admitted to having murdered a child in her past. Comparisons drawn in the press to the death of Jamie Bulger led to it being dropped altogether.

Lesbian kiss

The first TV lesbian kiss before the watershed saw Beth lock lips with Margaret (right) in Brookside in 1994.


EastEnders’ Mark Fowler announced he was HIV-positive on Boxing Day 1991 and was seen living with the
condition until 2004. In the past year, both Emmerdale and Hollyoaks have had long-standing characters who have HIV.

Male rape

Hollyoaks tackled male rape in a late-night 2000 episode when Luke Morgan was attacked. It returned to the subject in 2014 when John Paul was raped by Finn.

Baby Swap

Ronnie Branning (left) in EastEnders swapped her cot-death baby for Kat’s live child in 2011. More than 13,000 viewers complained to the BBC and over 1,000 more to Ofcom. The soap was eventually cleared.

Right to die

A 2011 assisted suicide story in Emmerdale featured tetraplegic Jackson Walsh and his lover Aaron. Coronation Street ran its own story in 2014, involving terminally ill Hayley Cropper who decided to end her own life.


The British soap awards are on Thursday 8pm on ITV