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EastEnders episode
CivvyStreet Title Card (26 December 1988).jpg
Title card
Directed byJulia Smith
Written byTony Holland
Produced byJulia Smith
Editing byDenis Wyatt
Production codeLDLK992L[1]
Original air date26 December 1988 (1988-12-26)
Running time60 minutes
Episode chronology
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"CivvyStreet" (sometimes written as "Civvy Street") is a spin-off episode of the British television soap opera EastEnders, broadcast on BBC1 on 26 December 1988. The episode is a flashback to World War II and is set in Christmas 1942. The episode was watched by 7 million viewers.


Lou Beale (Karen Meagher) and her husband Albert Beale (Gary Olsen) are celebrating their marriage in Walford, and planning their happy life together when war is declared. Albert is conscripted into the army, leaving Lou and her three children, Kenny Beale, Harry Beale (Aaron Mason) and Ronnie Beale (Chase Marks), behind. Lou's family rally around including her mother (played by Avis Bunnage) and sister Flo (Linda Robson) and her friends including young Ethel (Alison Bettles), dodgy Reg Cox (Marc Tufano) and pub landlords Ray (Robert Putt) and Lil (Frances Cuka) to keep her company. Lou worries that Albert will not return from war intact, and the episode sees her propositioned by Richard (Otto Jarman) in his absence, but she stays faithful and she and Albert are reunited. Ethel's parents are killed by an enemy bomb while she is sheltering with Lou in Walford East tube station. Ethel is also torn between the amorous advances of a GI and her admirer William Skinner (Ian Brimble).

Cast and characters[edit]


The episode was written and directed by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Described as "nostalgic" by the BBC,[3] it looks at the early life of the residents of Albert Square and features a young Lou Beale, Ethel Skinner and Reg Cox, who was a minor character found dead in the first episode of EastEnders in 1985.[4] It is a flashback to World War II, set in Christmas 1942.[2] Holland was disappointed to discover that the character of Dot Cotton would have been too young during the war to be featured as a useful character (she would have been six years old in 1942) and he thought that the major events of the war happened in the wrong order for effective drama.[4] However, Dot featured in her own special episode in 2003, called Dot's Story, which shows her being evacuated to the countryside during World War II.[5][6]

Actress Karen Meagher researched her role by talking to her parents about their wartime experiences. She said in an interview with the Daily Mail in 1988, "I wanted to find out what their lives were like. Their house was bombed by the Nazis and they had to move. My mother is also quite similar to Lou in that she is a strong-willed person."[7] Meagher also said, "I don't follow soaps and have seen only a handful of EastEnders episodes and I deliberately avoided examining Anna Wing's latter-day portrayal of Lou Beale."[7] Meagher also said that "Wartime Lou a very different person to the matriarch we see later on but there are hints of her older character in the importance she stresses on things like the family. My aim was to make her as real as possible. Women played such an important part during the war and it has not always been acknowledged."[7]

Actor Gary Olsen commented in 1996 on the legacy of the episode in EastEnders, joking that he regularly appears in the show: "I did a special which was set in the war, called Civvy Street, and I played Albert Beale. In it I married Lou. Our wedding photo can be seen on the Fowlers' sideboard. I don't get a penny for it."[8]

According to the Musicians' Union in September 2017, they received royalties for the theme music used in "CivvyStreet" but could not distribute them as the performers were not known to them.[9] As of May 2018 the performers have been located.[10]


Official ratings from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board showed that the episode gained 7 million viewers and achieved 74th place in the British Top 100 programmes for that week.[11] Whilst this spin-off episode did not achieve similar viewership to two episodes of EastEnders that week (19.1 million and 21.1 million), it did gain a higher viewership compared to other popular programmes that week, such as Yes Prime Minister (6.5 million), French and Saunders (6.4 million) and Brookside (6.2 million).[11][12]

In 1999, Steve Pratt of the Northern Echo said of the episode: "EastEnders went back to Albert Square during the Blitz in a programme called Civvy Street. Young actors took over familiar characters, such as Lou Beale and Ethel, in their younger days during the Second World War. The Queen Vic was just a spit-and-sawdust local, with Ray Sewell and his wife Lil behind the bar. The idea was not a success."[13]

In 2017, Michael Hogan from The Daily Telegraph called "CivvyStreet" an "over-ambitious wartime flashback".[14] Tom Eames from Digital Spy named it one of the "TV origin stories you've probably forgotten even existed".[6]

Home media[edit]

In December 2016, "CivvyStreet" was released on BBC Store part of the "EastEnders Christmas Classics 2" set but also available individually,[15][16][17] and was available until the BBC Store closed on 1 November 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EASTENDERS - CIVVYSTREET". Getty Images. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Ballard, Allan (15 December 1988). "Walford at War". Radio Times (3394): 15.
  3. ^ "Off Air: Seasonal stuffing on the box". Broadcast: 22. 23 December 1988 – via ProQuest. Instead of an EastEnders Christmas special this year, there's Civvy Street, a "nostalgic" (the BBC's own word) look at Albert Square in 1942 written by Tony Holland and featuring the early romances of Ethel and Lou.
  4. ^ a b Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. p. 47. ISBN 0-563-37057-2.
  5. ^ "This Week's Poll: Which Soap Would You Like To See A Spin-Off From". ATV Today. 6 March 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b Eames, Tom (10 March 2017). "6 TV origin stories you've probably forgotten even existed". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Wallace, Richard (26 December 1988). "Albert Square goes back to the war" (pdf) (28774). Daily Mail. p. 22. Retrieved 28 February 2017 – via Gale.
  8. ^ Wright, Matthew (21 November 1996). "Matthew Wright". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Money-Owing-(Music-Uses)". The Musicians' Union. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Money-Owing-(Music-Uses)". The Musicians' Union. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  11. ^ a b "BRITISH TOP 100 - week ending 1 January 1989". Broadcast: 40. 20 January 1989 – via ProQuest.
  12. ^ "BRITISH TOP 100 week ending 1 January 1989" (pdf). Broadcast: 40. 20 January 1989. Retrieved 15 February 2017 – via ProQuest.
  13. ^ "Have a terrible time in soapland: [Echofeat Edition]". Northern Echo. 24 December 1999. p. 13. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via ProQuest.
  14. ^ Hogan, Michael (18 May 2017). "12 EastEnders spin-offs we'd like to see more than Kat and Alfie: Redwaterq". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  15. ^ Babbage, Rachel (8 December 2016). "New EastEnders classic Christmas episodes released: Relive the festive slaps, brawls and rows". DigitalSpy. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  16. ^ "EastEnders Christmas Classics 2". BBC Store. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  17. ^ "EastEnders: CivvyStreet". BBC Store. Retrieved 15 February 2017.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]