MELBOURNE - The final episodes of TV soap opera Neighbours have been aired in Australia. Hundreds of fans gathered to watch on a big screen in Melbourne - the city where the show is set and produced. In the UK, where Neighbours found most success, the finale will be broadcast today (Friday) evening on Channel 5. Former stars of the show including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and Margot Robbie returned to say goodbye to Ramsay Street. Over almost 37 years, the soap has had plane crashes, bushfires, drownings, and several tearful bedside death scenes. But while we won’t be giving away plot spoilers for the UK audience, the show’s producers had been clear they wouldn’t end on scenes of destruction and devastation. Instead, executive producer Jason Herbison told the BBC the aim was to give a “group hug” to fans who had grown up with the show. In Melbourne’s Federation Square, hardcore fans turned out to watch the final slice of life on Ramsay Street, in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough (famously, nearly an anagram of Neighbours). The show’s demise after almost 9,000 episodes comes amid dwindling ratings.

In Australia, Neighbours has struggled to attract 100,000 daily viewers on a subsidiary channel of Network Ten.

Even in the UK, where in the late 1980s, 20 million people regularly tuned in - more than a third of the population - viewing figures are now closer to one million.

In March, Channel 5 announced it was dropping the show - leaving a funding gap because the British network was a key broadcast partner in the series.

Stefan Dennis, who has played Paul Robinson since the show started in 1985, told the BBC that it was going to take a while to “say goodbye to Paul”.

“He’s not just someone I come to work and play for a few hours, and then go home,” he said.

“You’re talking about a character I have grown up with, matured with, developed with for nearly 40 years.

“I don’t know how I am going to say goodbye. I’d like to think I’m going to hang the suit up and walk away, but I think it’ll take a bit of a while to shake off.”

Minogue, who played Charlene Robinson from 1986 to 1988, set social media alight when she posted pictures of her and on-screen husband Jason Donovan, back on the street.