28 May 2014

Did Anna Wing (Lou Beale Of EastEnders) Really Appear in Market In Honey Lane?

 Lou Beale and family in 1985: "Market In Honey Lane? 'Ere, weren't that that soppy telly programme about 'ow lovely cockneys are? Not very true to life, was it?"

I've had an e-mail which asks me to stray out of the 1980s and into the 1960s. You think I REMEMBER the 1960s? Well I DON'T. Well, not much. But I'll have a go... 

Jackie writes: 

I keep reading that the actress Anna Wing who was Lou in EastEnders from 1985-1988, was in an ATV soap series called "Market In Honey Lane" from 1967-1969. I've read it on Digital Spy, in her obituaries in the Guardian, The Radio Times and The Stage and LOADS of places. But I still somehow doubt it because I've never seen her interviewed or read an interview with her in which she said so. Can you help?

Oh, crikey! Well, I went to the British Film Institute site which contains a pretty exhaustive cast list for Market In Honey Lane, including the guest cast line (the BFI is usually very thorough indeed) and she's not in that - not even as a guest star. And she's certainly not in any of the surviving episodes. Perhaps she wasn't in it at all - rumours spread on the internet and the BBC, ITV, Radio Times, Guardian, etc, etc, do fall for them regularly. Or perhaps it was a bit part? Maybe even an unnamed extra? But going on concrete fact, I have my doubts. Here's a link to the BFI cast list for Market In Lane - some future notables there, like Dennis Waterman, Ray Lonnen, Yootha Joyce and Richard Thorp - but no Anna Wing -

Talking of Market In Honey Lane, many comparisons are made between this and EastEnders as both feature an East End market - it's even been called a "precursor" to EastEnders, but that's tripe. Market In Honey Lane (later simply Honey Lane) was not originally a soap opera. It was a weekly series of self-contained stories, each one focusing on a particular character. The twice weekly "soap" format was only adopted for the second and third series (it was never shown all year round) and these suffered from the dreaded "regional variations" - some ITV companies showed it in the afternoon, some late at night. Ratings were not good for the second and third series, and ITV was not renowned for giving things a great deal of time to perform well. Albion Market suffered similarly in the 1980s. Market In Honey Lane was long forgotten by most people before planning began on EastEnders in 1983 and, despite the setting, was very different indeed in style - and impact.

 The British Film Institute says:

Inspired to some extent by Granada TV's success with Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-), ATV's Market in Honey Lane was a very conventional TV serial, setting up minor heartbreaks and conflicts so that the writers could dissolve them, usually, in a flood of cosy sentimentality.

 The series, overall, is deeply embedded in a culture; that of the Cockney proletariat with its wide boys, stoical mothers and hermetic yet threatening cosiness. It was not an earth-shaking programme, and certainly not pioneering in any revolutionary ideas in technique and production, but simply proposed itself to the casual viewer as a mildly pleasant affair.

EastEnders could never have been described as that! And now I'll bow out. Sorry I couldn't really clear your mind on this, Jackie. Anna Wing certainly didn't mention Market In Honey Lane in interviews I saw with her in the 1980s. However, the show was largely forgotten by then and no claim to past fame. As I say, if she did appear, it was either a bit part or a non-speaking extra. But there is a chance she simply didn't appear in it at all. Let me know if you find out anything else, and thanks for writing.

And please, readers, don't ask me to stray out of my 1980s comfort zone again. The '60s - all those kaftans, flares and love beads. Blueerggh! I'm going to watch a nice pop video featuring the lovely Alannah Currie at the height of her Thompson Twins fame just to soothe myself before bed! Just lurve her '80s hairdos!

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