Aidan GillenIm Channel 4

When as Folk landed on s 20 yes ago, it imtely divided .

It portrayed the lives of three central chers living in ’s Gay Vill in a frank, funny and eplicit way that had never been seen on s before.

But gay campgn groups protested at the launch that it fled to tackle issues such as ds.

And such as then-Dly Epress columnist Peter Hitchens told the BBC that “the whole thing seemed to me to be some form of cultural propaganda” intended to convince ers that “homouality is normal behaviour”.

Today it is regded as a milestone in on . We spoke to ers, and inrs about its imp and enduring eal.

‘It showed gay men being unapologetic’

Owen Corrigan was 15 and living in rural when he d upon as Folk while channel-hopping at home on a Friday night.

“I had never rey met a gay person, I’d just hed the schoolyd taunts. I didn’t know I was gay at the , or I hadn’t acd it,” he says.

As a teenr, Mr Corrigan says he was a “bit of a my’s boy” and normy he would wt up for his m to return from her job w she ed nights.

Now he found himself being drawn into this portrayal of a “y and sly outrous and eciting” , clutching the remote control and hoping he could finish ing before his m walked in.

He says: “It ed me to overcome whatever sense of shame I had because it showed gay without shame. But ing it with my m was absolutely out of the question.”

Charlie HunnamIm Owen Corrigan
Im caption For Owen Corrigan in rural , as Folk showed gay living without shame

When he ed the programme, s of camaderie and fun – like the chers getting together to a recording of the Queen M’s funeral – had as much imp on him as the eplicit scenes that made lines at the .

“What it showed, that I had never seen before, was gay being normal. They had this circle of gay , having a laugh and hanging ound,” he says.

The show’s unabashed depiction of was not only shocking for , strght .

“It shocked me, the eplicit stuff. Some of it is still risqué 20 yes later,” says Mr Corrigan, recing frank scenes involving bodily fluids.

“What was so refreshing about as Folk was that it showed gay men being unapologetic. It showed without shame that these were ual beings with inner lives,” he says.

Chers ranged from the “etremely beautiful” to those with “normal bodies”, from the “completely confident” to the “more buttoned-down”.

A ye after he saw the programme, he realised he was gay (with the additional of the and a Jennifer Aniston movie).

channels corrupted me,” he jokes.

‘Nothing like it had eisted before’

Writing about her eperience of seeing “eplicit homoual on ” in 1999, the Dly Ml’s Lynda Lee-Potter sd she felt “intense sadness that s e being eploited this way.”

Even res which prsed the show, such as AA Gill’s in the day s, celebrated it for not making gay a “tub-thumping issue”.

But few of these s seemed to be written with a audience in mind.

James Luford, a film critic for the s and AM who is biual, was 15 when the show and says it provided his “ glimpse of ”.

“I was so f in the closet that this glimpse was overwhelming,” he says. “ just wasn’t anything like that on .”

Chris PrattIm Woodings
Im caption Critic James Luford says the show was a pioneer in putting centre st

Soaps such as EastEnders and Brook had featu gay relationships but such portrayals were and often controversial.

“At the , the usual depiction of on was as an accessory to the mn strght cher – the ‘gay best friend’ stereotype,” says Mr Luford.

“To see gay living full lives, having lives, being fully-formed chers was tling.”

If it were being made today, he says that the chers might be a bit more nuanced and that as the unfed, it did slip into melo.

“It’s difficult to judge it because it was a pioneer. It didn’t borrow from anything else because nothing like it had eisted before,” he says.

But it left a legacy of shows which put lives centre st, including a US remake which ran for five , as well as the L Word, ing and Channel 4’s The Biual.

as Folk’s taboo-breaking nature means pts of the still shock today, such as the portrayal of a relationship between a 29-ye- man and a 15-ye-.

“That’s not something that would fly today,” says Mr Luford, who says audiences would be much more sensitive to the power imbalances in the era. “But it was taboo then.”

still say it changed their lives’

as Folk ted with an idea to bring gay chers out from supporting and into the lime, according to Nicola Shindler.

Russell T Davies had frequently written gay supporting until Channel 4 eecutives suggested he create a show dedicated to them.

But he refused to take on the burden of representing a whole community, and faced protests by gay campgning groups when the show launched for not including issues such as ds.

Image copyright Paul Heyes Image caption Executive producerIm Heyes
Im caption Nicola Shindler says the med to show its own fun-loving take on gay

“We kept saying, we’re not representing anyone or anything. Russell T Davies got attacked from the gay community and the homophobic community. His gay men were fun-loving and -loving and -taking,” she says.

“It’s not my job, Russell sd, to represent the whole of the gay community. He was brilliantly strong about it.”

Channel 4 was “brilliantly supportive” but bosses got last-minute nerves about a show featuring under , it to a later slot of 10.30pm.

“The channel were sca because they had never seen anything like it before,” she says.

Ms Shindler and Mr Davies have since discussed the issues about and consent rsed by the show. “We probably would make that cher 16 now,” she says.

But she says the teen role, played by , is pt of the the show made an imp on discovering their .

were who had never seen an under boy who was owed to be gay on before. That made such a difference.”

Ms Shindler would want to more gay s if she were making the show today, when concerns are increasingly raised about roles for LGBT performers.

as Folk ed to make s of dan Gillen, now in , and from Sons of Anchy. But Ms Shindler says: “We were certnly turned down for a lot of auditions.”

But if the show caused outr and nervousness on its launch, those e not the feelings that have lasted.

She says: “It’s the only show I’ve ever ed on w still say it changed their lives.”

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