Brookside's groundbreaking Sheila Grant story to air for first time in 38 years

the grants in brookside
Brookside to re-air groundbreaking Sheila storyMersey Television / STV

The following article references sexual assault.

One of Brookside's most iconic storylines will be re-aired for the first time in 38 years.

It has been announced that next Wednesday (July 3) will see the STV Player release the full 1986 episodes where Sue Johnston's character Sheila Grant was raped in a groundbreaking storyline.

The upsetting scenes and the storyline that grew out of them revolved around Sheila being sexually assaulted after exiting a cab.

Viewers didn't see the culprit at first, with the soap later narrowing the list of suspects to three characters who each had a motive for attacking Sheila.

The first suspect, Matty Nolan, had wanted revenge against Sheila for outing him cheating on his wife, while the second, Alun Jones, had his romantic interest rebuffed by her.

the grants in brookside
Mersey Television / STV

The Grants' neighbour, Pat Hancock, was also considered a suspect in the sex crime because he'd been drinking the night of the attack and couldn't account for his whereabouts.

Sue Johnston received wide acclaim for the powerful scenes where her character, Sheila, came to terms with the abuse she'd endured. This storyline included poignant moments from Sheila's family, too, including Ricky Tomlinson as her husband Bobby.

Richard Williams of STV said: "Brookside was, and remains, renowned for its gritty realism and for not being afraid to shine a light on issues that were so often ignored on television when it was first shown forty years ago. The rape of Sheila Grant was a landmark moment – not just in Brookside, but in British TV itself.

“The wider conversations the storyline provoked at the time were testament to Sue Johnston’s powerful performance, as well as the sensitive scripting of the Brookside writers. Four decades on, we’re pleased to be giving a platform to this significant storyline and the important issues it highlights."

ricky tomlinson and su johnston brookside
Kevin Holt/ANL/Shutterstock

The STV Player has been releasing five episodes of classic Brookside each Wednesday since the soap premiered on the streaming service last year.

The re-airing of these classic shows immediately proved to be a ratings hit for the streamer, with Brookside setting viewing records early in 2023.

Sue Johnston starred in Brookside for eight years, before moving on to an incredible TV career that has included The Royle Family, Downton Abbey and Coronation Street.

A few years ago, Sue reflected on how she had very different experiences working on Coronation Street and Brookside even though they were both soaps.

sue johnston appears on this morning

"When I worked on Brookside, we were only shooting two episodes a week at that time, so it was a pretty normal filming routine," she told This Morning.

"Corrie was... you were on it and it was fast, and I didn't like the rhythm of it. I felt that there wasn't any time to be creative and put an input."

Classic episodes of Brookside drop every Wednesday on STV Player.

If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.

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