Eastenders is a British soap opera and one of the country’s most popular television programmes, attracting a weekly audience of about nine million people. On the air since 1985, it occupies a significant place in the nation’s media landscape: its diverse cast of East-end characters – market traders and gangsters, British Asian and African-Caribbean families, white working-class café-owners, taxi-drivers and matriarchs, property developers and doctors – are familiar to most people living in Britain. No less familiar are the heavy drumbeats that introduce the music to the credits of every show and the image behind those final credits: the broad loop of the Thames as it curls through London’s East End and the Docklands.
But Eastenders is more than just a piece of light entertainment. Over the years, it has been pioneering in addressing a range of social issues that used not to be addressed by soap operas: drug addiction, complicated sexualities and same-sex marriage, race relations and racism, HIV and AIDS, forced marriage, domestic violence, and so on.
It is, in part, with this in mind that we have given the subtitle, The New Eastenders, to our Danube-on-Thames project and have produced this image: Eastenders replaced by Danube-on-Thames and a rough map of the Danube region superimposed onto the familiar landscape of London. This is the new social issue that we wish to address: the way that thousands of Danubians have made and are making their home in London, adding to its diversity, bringing new pieces to its social and cultural mosaic. We want to make Danubian London visible and explore the intercultural flows and frictions that result.