Thursday, 12 November 2009

1989: Beginning The Emmerdale Era...

Settling back to watch the first episode of the Emmerdale-minus-Farm era on 14 November, 1989, change was immediately upon us. The timeless Tony Hatch theme tune was still in place, but the accompanying visuals were very different.

The previous opening titles had been retro and lovely at the time of their introduction in 1975. As Emmerdale Farm's creator Kevin Laffan, interviewed in 1982, said - the aim was to get us to feel that Beckindale was the sort of place we wanted to live in - an escape from the grimness of modern day city living. There was a glorious Cider With Rosie feel to those titles, which endured until November 1989 and the final episode of Emmerdale Farm.

By the "go for it!" late 1980s, many of us city dwellers had a little money to spare to "live the dream" and escapes to the country were a reality. The 1989 opening titles reflected the increase in leisure pursuits in the countryside, and also featured Beckindale locations.

Many of us thought that the house featured in silhouette with the sun sinking behind it in the 1975-1989 opening titles was Emmerdale Farm. But a closer inspection reveals this was not so. I'm not sure where the location actually was, but it certainly wasn't Lindley Farm, the real-life location of Emmerdale Farm exterior scenes.

The 1989 titles went mainly for bright sunlight and featured Creskeld Hall (Home Farm), The Commercial Inn at Esholt (The Woolpack), and, finally, the cows coming home to Lindley Farm (Emmerdale Farm).

There was hang-gliding, ploughing, harvesting, a milk tanker going over a bridge, horse riding, sheep deeping... and some glorious sunshine. A wonderful advertisement for one of England's most beautiful counties.

Scrolling text had been employed for the end credits just before the end of the Emmerdale Farm era, and was used again for early Emmerdale - the end view this time being of the back of the farmhouse.

Of course, the Emmerdale Farm era had not been stagnant - tremendous changes had taken place in the show during the 1980s when the whole pace and tempo was altered. This was particularly noticeable during Richard Handford's era as producer, from 1983-1986, when the number of scenes per episode was increased.

The show had not been without its share of controversial drama, finally prompting Kevin Laffan, who had argued repeatedly against scenes of sex and violence over the years, to stop writing for it.

During the 1980s, Emmerdale Farm became an all-year-round soap, and was first networked - shown at the same time and on the same day across the country.

Original characters had evolved, some had been recast - and also, in the case of Jack Sugden, slightly rewritten - and new permanent characters had arrived by the ton.

But if the Emmerdale Farm era of the 1980s had seen many changes, the Emmerdale era of 1989-2009 has seen far more.

So, how did the new era dawn?

Well, we found ourselves in Main Street, Beckindale, as the opening titles faded...

The mobile library had arrived.

Sarah Connolly (Madeleine Howard) exchanged greetings with a passer-by, and then...

"Morning, Miss Connolly!" called Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow), getting in the milk, post and newspaper across the road at The Woolpack.

"Mr Wilks!" acknowledged Sarah.

"Bit nippy!" said Henry.

"Certainly is!" said Sarah.

Back inside the pub, Henry found Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) bustling about behind the bar, tidying up...

More soon!


  1. Anonymous24.11.09

    There you are you see, 1989 was the beginning of the Emmerdale era, not 1993 as some would have you make out. And for me, the show at the moment is no different to 1989, with it's mix of characters and scandal. It's really gone from strength to strength in the last 20 years, but through it all, one thing remains unique to the series, the Yorkshire countryside.

  2. Anonymous2.12.09

    Changes have always occured though in the series, right from the beginning. A lot of viewers didn't like changes made to the show, some like one particular era better than others, some like one era not any of the others, and some like all eras, but the same with all soaps changes are essential. If Emmerdale looked exactly the same now as it did in the 80s I wouldn't be watching it, but the storylines are always changing to ensure it's still on TV and as a fan for over 20 years I'm glad of that.