When I first heard that EastEnders were going to splice real life stories with the fictional story of Shakil Kazemis funeral, I had doubts and reservations over whether it would work or whether it was even appropriate.
Would it be jarring? Would it detract from the actual story EastEnders were trying to tell? Shouldnt the actual story speak for itself and get the message across without having to rely on real tragedy to make us feel?
The first thing that made me realise that my worries were unfounded was when I was speaking to Bonnie Langford – who is so passionate about getting this story right. She said that the story is about the real life situations – EastEnders can represent a fictional account but on this occasion, there is something far more important than EastEnders story. For one episode alone, they handed the mantel over to those who are living this hell every day.
And shes right. It may break form and be an uncomfortable watch. It may even seem that this is being forced down our throats or preached. But for one episode, in the grand scheme of things, what is more important?
Discussing and realising the extent of knife crime and being able to have that opportunity to talk to our children and families about what is going on in the world and what we can do to try and make a difference? Or EastEnders not breaking the fourth wall?
For one episode – an episode out of slot to boot – we can suspend the fictional world we expect and take a look at the bigger picture. There are few more pressing issues than the prevalent wave of knife crime across the UK right now. So taking this half hour and beyond to reflect on that and think yes, EastEnders is fictional – but this issue is terrifyingly real is no hardship.
Well have our heightened drama, our scheming, our twists and everything back on Monday. But lets take this episode – and that poignant and devastating ending – to think about knife crime and what can so easily happen to any of us. What a waste.
The stories told throughout paused the drama but these contributors were unbelievably brave. I am lucky to not know how they are feeling – to not know what its like to be a part of that exclusive group that no-one ever wants to be a member of.
So I cant comprehend how difficult that must have been. But why shouldnt we allow them this platform to convey their hurt and the consequences of knife violence? So what if it breaks the fourth wall of a soap for a few incidences of half an hour?
We use soaps to switch off from the real world. But the real world is still here and we are all living in it. Soaps have a platform to raise these discussions. All soaps do it and so they should.
Thank you so much for all your beautiful words of support after tonights episode. I have read every one. Thank you for the love for our lost loved ones. From the bottom of my heart thank you @bbceastenders and your entire cast for your bravery and dedication to this storyline
— Brooke Kinsella MBE (@brookekinsella) July 6, 2018
EastEnders has a heartbreaking triumph here. It wont fix knife crime. But if a family sitting around the TV listening to these stories and seeing the wave of real people holding up pictures of lost loved ones can then discuss it with their kids and make them think twice about carrying a knife, that is so much more important than any episode of any soap.
Well done EastEnders, well done to the writers, cast and researchers – but mostly those who have lost everything and fight on to talk about this should be so proud of the changes they can make. If I could be half of the person that these people are, then I know I have done well. And, as EastEnders did by dedicating their entire credits to the contributors, their powerful and heartwrenching contributions gave the biggest and truest impact here.
This episode needed to happen. And the talking must continue. This needs to stop.