Emmerdale’s Charlie Hardwick tells Soaplife that another disastrous date leads Val to take surprising action: she gives a talk about HIV in the Woolpack. Are people ready to listen to her, though?

Val starts to see things differently after her date with Tiny, doesn’t she?
“Yes. Intimacy is very important to Val and she wanted to prove to herself that she can have an erotic life, that’s why she went on a date with Tiny. However, it didn’t go well. She’s got a bruised cheek to show for it and she’s devastated to the core. She realises that the men she tells about being HIV positive will run a mile, yet if she sleeps with someone and then tells them, they will feel betrayed.”

How does Val feel when Eric challenges Tiny to a fight?
“Eric defends Val when Tiny calls her ‘diseased goods’, but Val isn’t happy about it. She’s like, ‘I can fight my own battles’. She thinks, ‘don’t stick your nose in, you filthy two-timing sister seducer.’ She hasn’t forgiven him for sleeping with Diane. It’s a huge betrayal and the fact that the two people she loves did it to her is cataclysmic.”

They all get arrested, though, don’t they?
“Yes. They get taken to the police station, but Val is the only one who is not let off. She acts all brave, but she’s worried that she will get done and have to go to court.”

How does Val feel when the villagers stand up for her against Tiny?
“That really surprises her. It’s a little glimmer of hope. She realises that she is not going to be put in the stocks and vilified. She really thought she would be blanked and have to move away, so that is a really wonderful piece of information.”

And she decides to give a talk in the Woolpack then, doesn’t she? What happens?
“She is wearing the T-shirt from the support group – the one she didn’t want to go near at first. She doesn’t want people wallowing in ignorance, so she tells them a few facts about HIV – like you can’t catch it from kissing or touching. Did you know, the HIV virus can’t live in the air and this is kind of symbolic?  Instead of hiding in the shadows, Val is getting it out into the light.”

How do the villagers react?
“They’re moved by her speech and admire her courage and candour and that starts to shift other things in her life…”