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Lime Pictures addresses radicalisation in hard-hitting Hollyoaks storyline

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Hollyoaks is to explore the issue of radicalisation into far-right extremism as part of a major storyline next year.

Writers and producers have spent months liaising with a range of expert advisers and charities to bring the story to light.

Contributors include Jamie Bartlett, who wrote the book Radicals, which saw him shadow organisations with extremist views.

“It’s vital that we get beyond the caricatures and understand the way extremists really operate,” he explained.

“Often their appeal is about more than the ideology, playing on local dynamics, exploiting legitimate personal grievances or even just seeming to provide a purpose and meaning.

“We rarely see beyond the headlines into how radicalisation really plays out in people’s lives, so having the chance to see the storyline unfold slowly over time will help viewers understand the reality of these groups: why and how people end up getting sucked in.”

It comes as the Home Office increases funding in cities to counter anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiments.

Hollyoaks also consulted with EXIT UK which works with the Home Office to extricate people who have become involved in far right extremist groups.

“Exit UK welcomes Hollyoaks vision for using their platform to highlight the impact of extremism on individuals, families and broader society. We were pleased to offer our support and advice and praise the writing staff, actors and production crew for attempting to address such a difficult topic,” said a spokesperson from Exit UK.

“All extremist groups, not just the far-right, exploit individuals and their weaknesses to further their agenda. As a society, we should not shy away from discussing and highlighting difficult issues such as far-right or any form of extremism.”

The storyline begins when Jonny (Ray Quinn) arrives in the soap next week. He identifies Ste (Kieron Richardson) as being open to radicalisation.

“From the research we carried out, we realised that in Ste Hay we had a character that was disenfranchised and vulnerable enough to be groomed into extreme views,” said executive producer, Bryan Kirkwood.

“The more we learned about how these groups operate and how insidious they are, the more passionate we became about telling this story, which is about how hate and fear can destroy communities.

“It’s also a modern story about protecting young people online who are susceptible to fake news, the echo chambers of the internet and the algorithms that can lead people, in this case our much- loved character Ste down a rabbit hole into a terrifying world.

“This story will show how this can happen and how difficult it can be then to escape from.”

Channel 4 will provide programme support around the episodes.

“We have a proud history of exploring hard-hitting issues like self-harm and sexual abuse at 6.30pm,” continued Kirkwood.

“In the same way we hope to engage people in an issue they may not have previously been aware of.”

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