Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Ah, Charlene – it’s the end of an era! Neighbours superfans reveal what the end of Ramsay Street means to them

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Residents of Erinsborough’s Ramsay Street will close their doors to the outside world for the last time this summer, after more than three decades of beaming into our homes.

Despite having propelled the careers of Kylie Minogue, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, and Liam Hemsworth since its debut in 1985, the decision has upset Neighbours fans around the world.

Even a petition with over 60,000 signatures – including Ramsay Street alumni Natalie Imbruglia – couldn’t save it after production company Fremantle tried desperately to find it a new home after it was cancelled by Channel 5 earlier this year.

But what is it about this soap, which initially aired in the United Kingdom in 1986 and changed the accents of a generation of British children, that has left so many people upset by its cancellation?

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One fan, who only wants to be identified as Adam, told Metro.co.uk that he is’struggling’ with the news because the show saved his life.

Adam recounts that he attempted suicide after being harassed online by an anonymous bully and being unable to come to terms with his sexuality.

Adam claims he was given so many pills that he couldn’t read or operate his phone after being rescued by paramedics and confined to a mental unit. During those gloomy days, the only thing that kept him company was Neighbours, a show he’d watched since he was a child.

‘Neighbors took on the role of my therapist,’ he says. ‘I’m back at work after a long year, and in a tiny way, I can say I’m a proud homosexual man.’ Many people don’t realise the significance of Neighbours, and it aided me in a manner that no other show could.’

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Adam’s inspiring tale is just one of many examples of how the upbeat and progressive show has aided people dealing with Covid, cancer, solitude, and loss.

Metro.co.uk spoke to five Australian superfans about the end of an era.

‘I started the #SaveNeighbours petition because losing the show would be devastating to me.’

Ben Bone, a university tutor from Middlesbrough, is 39 years old.

‘I’ve spent my entire life watching Neighbours. It gives us a daily dose of brightness and escapism, and it helped us get through the pandemic by distracting us from our worries.

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And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about ‘Bouncer’ – the show has also featured poignant themes about testicular cancer, surrogacy, and sorrow.

They currently have a primary character who is a trans actress, and they have storylines concerning her transition and first sexual experience as a trans person. As a result, it is quite important.

As a self-professed Neighbours fan, I’ve collected everything of the memorabilia, including old VHS tapes, DVDs, sticker books, and annuals.

For my 30th birthday, I travelled to Australia to see the set and meet the cast. I got to meet Steph Scully, who I adore. (My icon is Lynn Scully.) I also had the pleasure of meeting Malcom and Karl Kennedy – all the greats!

It was everything I could have asked for because they were all so nice and welcoming, and I think they really appreciate the UK fans.

I’ll be devastated if the show is taken off the air. I’m devastated. It doesn’t seem fair because the reasons are financial rather than based on the storyline or viewership metrics. Especially considering Neighbours was the first show to resume filming after the outbreak.

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It set the standard, and all other shows around the world were watching to see how Neighbours handled the pandemic. The show gave them a model to work with, thus it was much ahead of its time.

The amazing thing about Neighbours was that it avoided the pandemic entirely. So for half an hour each day, you could watch something completely unrelated to Covid – pure escapism.

The epidemic happened to coincide with their 35th anniversary, so there was a lot of nostalgia with a lot of old characters returning, so it was nice to watch something without masks and without Covid. It allowed you to re-imagine your everyday life.

I’ve been putting in a lot of effort, along with a few other fans, to salvage the programme. We created the @Neighbens Twitter account with my friend Ben Fenlon, and we were able to push not just the Neighbours theme song to number one on Spotify, but also Especially For You into the top ten.

We also started the #SaveNeighbours petition, which has received over 60,000 signatures, demonstrating the show’s widespread popularity.

Filling that 22-minute gap in the day at 5.35pm, when I’ve been watching it for 37 years, will be really difficult for me.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t watch Neighbours. I went to grade school with Billy Kennedy and went to university with the Scullys, so there will be a void.’

‘For my 30th birthday, I dressed up like Charlene in her wedding gown.’

Kris Hallenga, 36, resides in Newquay and is the creator of the CoppaFeel! breast cancer charity.

‘Sometimes it really helps to be able to switch off when life can be so absolutely strange and terrible. There’s something to be said for being able to tune into something while tuning out the rest of the world — for whatever reason.

It’s cancer for me, and the comfort and familiarity of Neighbours truly helps. After supper, I watch it with my twin sister Maren and her husband, and it’s a pleasant habit.

When the plots are truly ludicrous, I prefer them. My sister and I are constantly astounded by how unbelievable the plots become. I’ll never forget Toadie and Dee driving off the edge of the cliff.

Recently, there was a large storm, and a pylon came down, inflicting so much damage that it was ludicrous. Terese, who had an alcohol problem, got into an altercation on a rooftop, slid, and ended up dangling from a building’s side. No one has the courage to dangle in such a way as she did. Neighbours is a classic.

When it comes to sensitive storylines, on the other hand, they excel.

I was extremely invested because of the way they handled Sonya’s ovarian cancer narrative. I have always been good at talking about death and dying with people close to me as someone who was diagnosed with stage 4, incurable breast cancer at the age of 23, but I believe it would have helped other individuals.

It was depicted in a realistic, emotional, and lovely manner. That they respond to those things makes me very happy. Because of Toadie’s sadness at the time, and seeing the mark Sonya was making on people and her children, I felt a strong connection.

Our tales are different in some ways, but the way death and dying were shown comforted me because I am not one to avoid such conversations or stories. I actually want more of that. Because death is so common, it is something that should be spoken more.

We decided that because Neighbours turned 30 the same year Maren and I did, it would be a perfect theme for our party, so we had guests dress up as characters from the show.

Maren dressed up as Dee Bliss and I dressed up as Kylie’s character Charlene in her wedding gown. Susan Kennedy slipped up on when she ended up with amnesia, and my friend Sinead dressed up as the spilt milk carton!

There were also four Harolds, each of whom had a different take on him. Giovanna Fletcher was one of them, and she had a belly and looked amazing because she was pregnant at the time.

Other visitors dressed up like Bouncer the dog, and a galah was held. It was a hilarious night full with laughs. I enjoy fancy dress at the best of times, and we nailed it this time.

It hasn’t yet dawned on me that it is coming to an end. I’d like to remember it, so my sister and I discussed having another Neighbours party at some point. The wedding gown is still in my possession. Whatever we decide, there will undoubtedly be a viewing party for the last episode.’

‘On my grandmother’s deathbed, my sister made a commitment to her.’

Hayley Charlesworth, a PhD student from Greater Manchester, is 32 years old.

‘I used to kick when the Neighbours theme music came on while my mother was pregnant with me. So you could say I’ve been a fan since I was a baby!

I’d always watched it, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that it became a part of my daily routine. After school, I’d visit my grandmother and we’d watch it together while having chippie takeout.

We did it all through high school and sixth grade, and then when I moved away to university, I would call her and tell her about what had happened on Neighbours.

My grandmother died in 2013, and on her deathbed, my sister Toni promised her that she would begin watching Neighbours every day so that she could chat to me about it.

She has continued to do so every day, and she is now a passionate fan as well. Because of those memories of my grandmother, it is really meaningful to me.

Toni now has a two-year-old son who, while she was pregnant, would kick not only at the Neighbours theme song, but also at any time he heard an Australian accent, such as when Hugh Jackman was on screen.

Hugh is his name, but if he had been a girl, they would have named him Nell, after Mrs Mangel’s daughter, Toadie, and Sonya.

Fans of Neighbours in the United Kingdom and Australia form a vast and welcoming group. And the show is particularly significant in terms of LGBT+ representation.

I’m bisexual, and the LGBT representation on Neighbours, especially in recent years, has been fantastic — far better than on most TV shows.

Chloe Brennan, who is bisexual and totally portrayed as a really positive character, is one of my favourite characters. That means a lot to someone who identifies with that label, especially after seeing so many bad or stereotyped images on film, so I believe it will be a great loss for the LGBT+ community.

The news that it will end has hurt me, but I am also in denial. I’m not giving up hope that it’ll return in some form in the future.’

‘After long shifts as an NHS nurse, Neighbours was a welcome break.’

Alison Tinlin, a wedding blogger from Glasgow, is 48 years old.

‘I have a strong connection to Australia since I have family there, and having been six times since the 1990s, it feels like a second home to me.’

I last visited before the outbreak in 2019, when I took a tour of the set of Neighbours.

It was one of my trip’s highlights. I had the pleasure of meeting Zima Anderson, who portrays Roxy Willis, who patiently answered all of our questions. I walked around the outside after the meet-up and was able to photograph all of the well-known locations, including Lassiters, Lassiters Lake, the 182 Tram, Grease Monkeys, The Waterhole, the Garage, the Backpackers, the backyards, and Sonya’s nursery.

The interior sets are all closed, but I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Matt Wilson and Takaya Honda, who play Aaron Brennan and David Tanaka, filming in a faraway garden.

Then I went to Pin Oak Court, which is based on Ramsay Street in real life. It’s great to see all of these gorgeous houses that you see on TV every day and to walk in the footsteps of celebrities. Overall, it was a highly worthwhile event that I will never forget.

What is it about Neighbours that I find so appealing? It’s the ideal combination of drama, warmth, brightness, and variety. It’s full of happy memories, and it’s been a big part of a lot of people’s lives for 37 years, including mine.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been a fan of Neighbours. It was a mainstay when I was a teenager, and it was an escape after long shifts when I worked as a staff nurse for the NHS, and while my children were young. I’m starting to feel like the characters are part of my extended family.

There is a lot of emotion surrounding the show’s end, and I must admit that I’ve found all the Neighbours finale talk and speculation about who will return for the final episode – with a big focus on Kylie, Jason, and Bouncer – to be really aggravating.

Those characters and actors, no matter how brilliant they were and how valuable they were to the show while they were on it, haven’t been on for 30 years, and I think that’s really unfair to the current cast, who are killing it.

Nostalgia is wonderful, and there have been some spectacular times in the past, but the soap’s progress has been enormous, and the current cast, writing, and production are all top-notch, and should be equally, if not more, recognised.

I am saddened for all of the show’s fans, as well as for those who will lose their employment as a result of the cancellation. It feels especially cruel after two years of the outbreak.

Even though I’m a busy blogger, my lunchtimes will never be the same without checking in with Neighbours.’

‘After we watched the show together, I came out to my mother.’

Ben Fenlon, a news reporter from Melksham, Wiltshire, is 42 years old.

‘I’ve been a fan of Neighbours since I was a child. It’s been a constant in my life and has helped me tremendously emotionally.

I used to be extremely lonely and secluded as a teenager, and I didn’t have many friends. My escapist was Neighbours, which helped me forget about my problems.

I’d make up my own stories and write the show’s storylines. In the mid-1990s, I even sought help from one of the script writers on how to break into the industry. He told me I needed more life experience, and writing for soap operas is still a dream of mine. I’m terribly bummed that I’ll never be able to contribute to Neighbours.

I associate the show with a number of significant events in my life. Visiting Ramsay Street in 2003 and then again in 2005 were two of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I recall all of us getting together at university to see Susan Kennedy confront Karl about his affair. However, for me, the most pivotal episode was in 2008, when we saw Rosie Cammeniti struggle with her sexuality.

I hadn’t told my family I was gay yet, so I watched it with my mother. As soon as the credits rolled and the theme song began to play, Mum began questioning me about my sexuality, and that’s when I came out.

I’m happy for that episode because it started a dialogue and got us talking – which is exactly what soap operas do: they bring subjects into the living room that you wouldn’t ordinarily discuss.

I interviewed Jason Donavan for the paper where I work three years ago, and I got to speak with him on the phone. I was nervous, but he was such a nice guy. He was a great conversationalist who could talk about anything.

Then, just last year, I was on BBC Radio 2’s Scott Mills and competed in a Neighbours quiz against Stefan Dennis (who portrays Paul Robinson) – and I won. Meeting him online was odd and humbling (though there was some joy in knowing more than he did!).

It’s very terrible that Neighbours is coming to an end. Some members of the crew are already wrapping up their work, while the writing team has already completed their final day. It’s incredibly depressing to think that all of history is coming to a close.

It may sound stupid for Neighbours fans to be unhappy, but we all have some form of emotional crutch that we rely on, and for many people, Neighbours is that crutch.’

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