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Hollyoaks is a long-running British television soap opera, first broadcast on Channel 4 on 23 October 1995. It was originally devised by Phil Redmond, who has also devised shows including Brookside and Grange Hill. The programme is set in a fictional suburb of Chester called Hollyoaks and is centred around a local further education college called Hollyoaks Community College, with the characters generally being in their late teens or early twenties. Since 1995, the cast has expanded from just seven major characters to approximately 50 cast members. Since the long-serving producer Bryan Kirkwood quit in 2009, the role of series producer has seen several changes. Kirkwood's successor Lucy Allan stepped down from her position in 2010 after just twelve months, and her replacement, former The Bill producer Paul Marquess took control later that year. Like his predecessor, Marquess left the series after a year and Gareth Philips was appointed as series producer. Emma Smithwick later replaced Phillips as a permanent replacement. Smithwick was a series editor of the soap for a while, before taking on the role of producer in Autumn 2011. In late September 2012, it was announced that Emma Smithwick would depart her role as Executive producer. Instead, Bryan Kirkwood will return to his previous position and will work alongside Tony Wood.
In the 2000s, Hollyoaks became more popular than it was in its first five years, when it was a newcomer to the British soap scene. By the turn of the millennium, it had a substantial fan base and was seen as a vibrant, modern and young person's soap. In 2002, creator Phil Redmond considered withdrawing his programme from airing on Channel 4, after the network axed his other soap opera Brookside. However, Hollyoaks continued to air on the channel. In 2009, the soap opera became the centre of many headlines because of planned storylines for Melissa Walton's character Loretta Jones, which resulted in a public debate. Marquess' changes in 2010 included a shake-up of the production team, a cull of over fifteen characters and the introduction of over thirty new characters.
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