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Live Webchat with EastEnders Producer, Bryan Kirkwood. Friday 21st January at Midday

(298 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 19-Jan-11 12:55:31

Following recent debates on the EastEnders' storyline, and our meeting with BBC executives and two mumsnetters to discuss the baby snatch story, we're delighted Executive Producer of EastEnders, Bryan Kirkwood is joining us to answer your questions this Friday (21st January) between 12 and 1pm. If you're unable to join us at that time, please post your questions to Bryan on this thread.

IAmReallyFabNow Wed 19-Jan-11 13:39:44

Will you admit you were wrong to screen this story line and is it true that the writers pushing for it have no children?

Is it true that Patsy Palmer and Samantha Womack have left bcause of this story line?

When is the story going to be concluded as it needs to be very very quickly?

On another topic let me tell you you are so wrong to think that a child who has been in an abusive relationship would then go on to be a prostitute, in the majority of cases and I think this plan with the Whitney character is going to lose you a lot of viewers and cause no end of distress. Giving a helpline at the end of the programme does not justify such an awful story line.

OracleInaCoracle Wed 19-Jan-11 14:29:08

I would like to know which midwife told you that he/she would discount the loss of a club foot and 20% weight loss overnight as one of those things.

deemented Wed 19-Jan-11 14:30:44

I've got quite a few points i'd like to reaise, but not much time now so will collate them together and post later.

OracleInaCoracle Wed 19-Jan-11 14:34:41

dee, Ive still got the head banger list, so might just C&P that onto here later.

Rubyonthetown Wed 19-Jan-11 14:37:00

Do the BBC Executives take responsibility for the upset they have caused bereaved families?

BialystockandBloom Wed 19-Jan-11 16:08:38

Glad you're braving the impending storm!

My question: was a SID storyline seen as not dramatic enough itself without adding a sensationalist and totally unrealistic (not to say damaging) babyswap story? Did the writers/producers not have confidence in their abilities to create a sufficiently powerful drama from the sudden death of a baby?

Georgimama Wed 19-Jan-11 17:13:18

Is it a deliberate editorial decision that over the last five or so years every single EE character has become utterly utterly charmless to the extent no one could possibly relate to them? And if so, why? Out of interest. I gave up watching years ago.

travellingwilbury Wed 19-Jan-11 17:49:25

I don't really know where to start .

I would like to know why the death of a newborn baby wasn't deemed as quite dramatic enough for you ?

What research was carried out to help you with Ronnies reaction to finding her dead baby and then swapping him for another ?

Do you think you have achieved your remit of "educating informing and entertaining" ?
If so in what way exactly ?

Have you really shortened this story line because of public reaction ? Surely the fact that Sam Womack is leaving in the spring made that decision for you .


CottageFrog Wed 19-Jan-11 19:25:47

Would the BBC consider putting together a tv programme featuring MN'ers, who would voice their views regarding this storyline, which would in itself raise awareness regarding cot death?

keevamum Wed 19-Jan-11 20:25:19

I no longer watch Eastenders since this appalling storyline. I have watched it religiously since it started and I must admit I miss it. However, I felt enough was enough. I know it is only a tv programme and I know it is not real but I realised I no longer feel anything but misery after watching. There are no light hearted threads, no characters who are just nice e.g bradley and being one of a large population of ladies who have lost babies albeit in the womb I can no longer put myself through the grief of watching. When will the storyline be resolved? Do you have any nice storylines being planned for the future or is Easteneders going to stay the most morose and grim programme on the television?

OracleInaCoracle Wed 19-Jan-11 21:06:19

would you consider doing a realistic infertility storyline, whereby a couple try for a baby, seek help, undergo IVF/ICSI and examining the strain that IF puts a relationship under as well as relationships with fertile friends. I know its not mind-blowing, but a lot of couple suffer from IF (whether secondary or primary) and it would be good to see a real portrayal where the woman doesnt go a bit nuts.

RosieAndGin Wed 19-Jan-11 21:55:51

With hindsight, would you agree it would have been better to portray just the cot death in a sensitive manner? one cannot fault the acting from Jessie and Shane, to add insult to injury with the baby swap beggers belief.

Saucepanman Wed 19-Jan-11 23:55:07

Here was a real opportunity for the show to help raise awareness of what a bereaved mother goes through. For example,I would have "liked" to have seen an episode in a few months where Ronnie randomly started crying and nobody asked her why. What gave you the idea for this storyline? FSID have pointed out they were not consulted on the swap element of the story. If you had consulted them and they had disapproved, would you have listened and would it have changed your mind?

Any chance of an "It was all a dream" ending?! It isn't necessary to infer that all a character/person knows throughout their life is abject misery. I am trying not to be too emotive, but I have to tell you that I am a bereaved mother, and am insulted and humiliated by the notion that this could ever be considered a realistic reaction to the death of a child.

supergreenuk Thu 20-Jan-11 09:20:56

Re the club foot. When a mother is crying over her dead baby in hospital saying 'that's not my baby' did no one think 'she has a point there as this baby has gained 20lbs in a day and has a club foot and it didn't before?'

shabbapinkfrog Thu 20-Jan-11 10:29:16

Have been searching through my mind to ask a question....the only one that has come up is WHY???

The cot death story was sad enough (especially for bereaved Mums - I, personally, have lost 2 of my 4 sons. When my sons died there was never, ever, the thought of 'Oh I will go to my neighbours and swop this dead child for one of her live ones'

Eastenders has long been one of my favourite soaps, but I have struggled to 'get my head around this twist to the story.'

I hope that the story comes to a very quick conclusion. Kat and Alfies amazing acting has been the part, for me, that has made tears flow down my face. I cannot explain what it feels like to be a bereaved parent - there are no words to explain it.

I suppose I dont have a question. I suppose I just wanted to give you a tiny fragment of insight. To just say that apart from the heart rending acting of Kat and Alfie the whole storyline has been a shambles.

OracleInaCoracle Thu 20-Jan-11 12:11:50

I would like to commend you on the anorexia storyline you did with Hannah in hollyoaks though. I am an anorexic and found the way that story was dealt with very realistic and vey sensitive. the majority of soaps when dealing with such issues have the sufferers making a full recovery, or focussing on the weight loss. but the hair falling out, the reaction of her family and subsequent relapse was very true to life. Emma Rigby was excellant.

deemented Thu 20-Jan-11 12:19:27

Right. I have a few points i'd like to riase. Forgive me if they don't seem to be in order, i was thnking of them and going off on tangents.

I'd be very interested to know how this could have ever been thought of as a feasable storyline? Was the death of a baby not ratings worthy enough for you? Why would anyone think 'Oh i know, when she finds her childs cold, lifeless body, instead of howling imhumanely, trying CPR and dialing 999, all the while screaming for her baby, we'll have her mutter 'don't do this to me' and take baby outside and then swap it with her friends newborn, then carry on pretending nothings happened' Why was this not shot down in flames during the planning stage?

Have you any idea, Mr. Kirkwood, of the disservice that this soryline has done to bereaved parents? We are stigmatised enough, people think our loss is catching, people ignore us, people are incedibly insensitive - and now, thanks to your storyline, people will also think that we want to steal their babies. I know it's a storyline, You know it's a storyline, but there are many many peope out there that do think that this is real, that it could happen. Do you remember when Dierdre Barlow was imprisoned in Coronation Street? The 'Free The Weatherfield One' campaign was set up - showing that some people cannot distinguish between a soap and real life events. Life as a bereaved parent is already horrendously difficult - now it has become even more so.

To be honest, i've been very very dissapointed with Eastenders and the BBC's response to our complaints. To hide behind the 'We sought advice from FSID' excuse was nothing short of cowardly and has done a great disservice to FSID - it implied that you had consulted them on the swap part of the storyline, when in fact, you hadn't, had you? Yet you were happy to let people think you had. You knew full well that people were NOT complaining at the showing of a cot death, but at the following baby swap storyline, yet you still sought to pacify the people complaining with a pathetic, inadequate respone that didn't address their complaints at all. What do you have to say to this?

I'd like to know just how stupid Bryan Kirkwood thinks we, the Eastenders viewers, are? The BBC said 'It's not real' when they couldn't hide behind FSID anymore - well if that's the case, why have a tag on the end of the programme which says 'If you have been affected by this programme, please ring this number'? What did the operators on the line say - 'oh get over yourselves, it's not real you know'? No? I didn't think they would.

Why do you think it is enough to say that Ronnies past would lead her character to decide to swap her dead child for her friends live one? Or is it the fact that she has been abused and had other losses in her life enough of a reason - i certainly don't think so. There are many bereaved parents out there that have had horrendous things happen to them before the death of their child - i can't think of a single case where one of them has done what Ronnie did. I'd like to know where you did your research that showed that this could happen? Kat is also a 'damaged' woman, and a bereaved parent, or so she thinks, but she hasn't stolen another womans baby - why not?

You said that you have cut this storyline short - that it had been due to run til Christmas, if not longer - how exactly was that supposed to happen, given that Samantha Womack was leaving in May anyway? Or did you think you would spin us that and think we'd believe it?

You say there is to be a 'Warm and Tender' conclusion to this storyline. How exactly is that supposed to happen? One baby is dead, and buried under another babys name. The baby that it has been swapped for is with a mother who, you'd like to have us believe, is insane with grief, and there is a family grieving for a baby who isn't really dead. How exactly can this have a 'Warm and Tender' conclusion?

I'd be very interested in your response to these points, Mr Kirkwood.

DontWorryBaby Thu 20-Jan-11 12:19:50

I'd just like to reiterate what others have said. You'd have won me over if this was the simple story of a mother tragically losing her child, as this isolated section of the storyline has been sympathetically portrayed and exceptionally well-acted by Kat and Alfie and their family. The twist was unnecessary & unrealistic, just a step too far in my opinion. I really do wish you'd stopped with the cot death.

Inexplicably, I've heard that certain parts had been editted out - such as showing Kat after her haemorrhage with bloodstained bedding etc and showing Ronnie touching the baby after she realised he had died. What made you edit out these real, true parts of this storyline yet keep in the frankly ridiculous babyswap?!

Are you ever likely to accept that this is a step too far and you regret the decisions made or is this simply good exposure and publicity for your programme?

lottiejenkins Thu 20-Jan-11 15:59:00

Mr Kirkwood. I will not be here for the chat tomorrow as i am at work however I have some comments and a question for you below!!! I am one of the bereaved mothers like Deemented that feels that you have done us all a great disservice. I did an interview with my local paper. here I am disgusted at the way that Eastenders has handled the cot death issue. Am i right in thinking that a lot of your scriptwriters didnt want to write the episode?? I will no longer be watching your programme and i hope you think more carefully in future before you think up any more fanciful and hurtful storylines!!

MmeLindt Thu 20-Jan-11 16:02:50

The other posters have put the questions forward that I would have asked but I would like to post in support of them and hope that you can give them answers.

I would like to know if you think it is right that Eastenders is such a dismal and depressing soap?

Don't you want to do something uplifting, or have some of the characters living a happy life.

I stopped watching soaps some time ago because they have become the TV equivalent of MiseryLit.

Is it time to reassess this and perhaps interject some more positive storylines?

An IVF success story could be one - you can show the truth about infertility and IVF not the "oh, well, it did not work so you can just have a test-tube baby" that many seem to believe. But the reality of tests, injections, waiting, praying. And the joy that a positive test brings.

monkeyjamtart Thu 20-Jan-11 16:58:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

buzy Thu 20-Jan-11 17:28:22

My main objection to this story is that woman do know there own babies. My first born came out with a mass of blond hair and my second had black hair and a fat neck. It is sexist to give woman so little credit. Also where are the midwifes and the health visitors? Ronnie is obviously a step away from being sectioned and know one really seems to notice.

BryanKirkwood Thu 20-Jan-11 17:39:56


HowBreastfeedingWorks Thu 20-Jan-11 17:41:11

Why does EastEnders never depict breastfeeding properly?

(And yes, I'd like to know why Kat didn't notice her baby was different too - utterly implausible!)

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