Sarah Barnes is a fictional character from the British Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by Loui Batley. She debuted on-screen during the episode airing on 10 October 2005. Sarah was created by executive producer David Hanson as part of the Barnes family. In 2009, Batley quit the serial in order to pursue other projects. The character has been central to many key storylines, one of the earliest the high-profile gay storyline involving supercouple John Paul McQueen and Craig Dean.
The theme of sexuality was further explored through Sarah, seeing her have a one night stand with Zoe Carpenter and a serious relationship with Lydia Hart, which Batley initially found strange to portray because of Sarah's many relationships with male characters. Other storylines include a modelling career, competing in swimming competitions and her many relationships. According to Batley, Sarah relies on people too much for support and was "man-crazy" in her early years. Sarah's final storyline is her death in a skydiving accident, which was a first for a British soap opera. The storyline aired in the second series of Hollyoaks Later and was devised by producer Bryan Kirkwood. Sarah's death won "Spectacular Scene Of The Year" at the British Soap Awards in 2010 and the scenes have been praised by certain critics.
Auditions were held for the part of Sarah, the eldest daughter of the Barnes family and actress Loui Batley secured the role. On 1 July 2009, Digital Spy reported that Loui Batley had quit the soap and would leave towards the end of the year. Loui's decision matched co-worker Zoë Lister (Zoë Carpenter). The Hollyoaks website officially announced on 23 July 2009 that both Batley and Lister would leave towards the end of that year. Their final storyline was described as a "A tragic curtain call for one of them", stating that either Sarah or Zoë would die. Batley wanted to quit the serial in December 2008 when her contract ran out. Kirkwood asked her to stay another six months with the promise of a good exit storyline. The plot also involved Zoe and Lydia Hart (Lydia Kelly). She made it clear to Kirkwood and new executive producer Lucy Allan that she would leave afterward. Allan then came up with the idea of writing Batley out of the serial in its sister show Hollyoaks Later. Upon hearing Kirkwood's ideas for her exit storyline, Batley said: "I've been there for quite a while and it was a great ending for the character - I couldn't have asked for a better way to go..." Hollyoaks Later producer Bryan Kirkwood said: "Loui's been brilliant in Hollyoaks and she's massively underrated. She's been at the centre of some of the biggest storylines on the main show. She never turned in a performance less than top-notch and I wish she had a little more recognition for that. She's a very strong actress and it's been fantastic to work with her - and great to be involved in her exit."
In 2007, Sarah discovered fiancé Craig Dean's (Guy Burnet) affair with best friend John Paul McQueen (James Sutton), in the storyline dubbed "McDean". The storyline reached its climax as the truth is revealed "dramatically" at her engagement party. Sarah walked in on the pair kissing, A Hollyoaks spokesperson stated in an interview with Digital Spy, "John Paul's sick of all the lies and decides enough is enough. He sends a text from Craig's phone asking Sarah to come upstairs to see him. Safe in the knowledge that Sarah is on her way, JP sets about seducing Craig. When she walks in, she can't believe what she's looking at..." Sarah tried to recover from this and Batley said: "I don't think she got over Rhys, either. Craig more so, though. He absolutely destroyed her happiness and belief in men. Her relationship with Craig was going to be her life and she put so much effort into it, emotionally and physically, and it completely destroyed her." Batley said Sarah could not handle the fact he cheated on her with another man. She opined this was the reason her storyline with Zoe and Lydia worked well. However John Paul's betrayal also had impact on Sarah's life because he was one of her best friends. Batley said: "John Paul was her confidante and she thought they were best friends - it's hard to say which part made more of an impact on her. It was all just one horrible experience. It was the betrayal from both of them."
—Batley's opinion on Sarah's sexuality. (2010)
Sexuality continued to be a focal point in Sarah's storyline. The new plot featured Sarah questioning her sexuality after a one-night stand with Zoë. Speaking to Digital Spy, Batley said Sarah and Zoe always been close. Zoe is the best friend she has ever had because in her life people have always let her down, whereas Zoe has been "her rock"; despite their fall outs. Batley felt this to be the reason why they share a mutual friendly love for one another. In comparison, Sarah's feeling intensified and Batley commented: "For Sarah it's something more - she completely relies on her and that turns into love for her as well." Whilst filming the raunchy scenes, there was a nervous atmosphere on set.
Sarah then embarked on her first full relationship with a woman, with Lydia. The pair have a series of "misunderstandings" until Sarah admits her feelings for Lydia and comes out. Batley spoke of the storyline during an interview with The Sun branding her relationship with Lydia as serious compared to her fling with Zoe. The rocky relationship led to Lydia being jealous of Sarah and Zoë's friendship, and eventually Sarah's death within the show.