Starring See below
Original language(s) English
Final episode date 15 September 2008
Writers Matt Evans
Created by Phil Redmond
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 31
Program creator Phil Redmond
|No. of episodes 601 + 2 specials (list of episodes)|
Cast Terry Sue‑Patt, Gwyneth Powell, Tina Mahon, Sean Maguire, Kacey Clarke
Grange Hill is a British television children's drama series originally made by the BBC. The show began its run on 8 February 1978 on BBC1, and was one of the longest-running programmes on British television when it ended its run on September 15, 2008. It was created by Phil Redmond who is also responsible for the Channel 4 dramas Brookside and Hollyoaks; other notable production team members down the years have included producer Colin Cant and script editor Anthony Minghella.
- Series history
- Production history
- Television Centre years 197885
- Elstree years 19852002
- Liverpool years 200308
- Issues covered
- The Grange
- Spin offs
- Theme music
- Head teachers
- Video game
- Video Home Media
- DVD releases
After 30 years, the show was cancelled in 2008 as it was felt by the BBC that the series had run its course.
The drama was centred on the fictional comprehensive school of Grange Hill in the (equally fictitious) North London borough of "Northam" (although when filming moved to Liverpool in 2003, the school ceased to have any specifically named location), and followed the lives of its students as they progressed through school. The series was originally to have been called "Grange Park", which would go on to be used as the name of the school in another Redmond creation, the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside (1982–2003).
Grange Hill was originally conceived by ATV writer Phil Redmond, who first approached various television companies with the idea in 1975, unsuccessfully. In 1976, he managed to sell the idea to the BBC, and the children's drama executive Anna Home commissioned an initial series of nine episodes in a trial run, the first being broadcast on 8 February 1978.
From the start, the series caused controversy for its real-life, gritty portrayal of school life, which differed from the idealised portrayals of earlier school dramas. Redmond has said that he wasn't really able to start pushing the boundaries until later series. This led to Redmond being summoned to lunch by BBC bosses and forced to agree that there would be no further series unless he toned things down. Grange Hill's highest profile period was undoubtedly the mid-late 1980s. One of the most famous storylines during this time was that of Zammo McGuire, played by Lee Macdonald, and his addiction to heroin. This storyline ran over two series (1986–87) and focused on Zammo's descent into drugs and how it strained his relationship with girlfriend Jackie and friend Kevin. The show's other favourite characters during this period were Gonch and Hollo, played by John Holmes and Bradley Sheppard. During his time at the school (1985–89) Gonch took part in many moneymaking schemes, most of which were unsuccessful. There was a comedic element to the duo's relationship that worked well with viewers. Script editor Anthony Minghella, who worked on the series for several years during the 1980s, later won an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The English Patient in 1996.
During the 1990s, Grange Hill did not receive the same media attention that it had had just a few years before. The teachers were now equals in the narrative, with their personal lives taking up almost as much time as those of the pupils. In 1994, two characters were introduced with disabilities: Denny Roberts (Lisa Hammond), who had dwarfism, and Rachel Burns (Francesca Martinez), who had cerebral palsy. Both characters were presented as "one of the gang" and hated being accorded any special treatment because of their circumstances. This prompted the BFI's 2002 publication The Hill And Beyond to comment that Grange Hill had perhaps become politically correct.
Beginning on 4 April 1993, in celebration of the programme's 15th anniversary, the first fifteen series of Grange Hill were repeated during CBBC's Sunday (and later, Saturday) morning slots on BBC1 and BBC2. The repeats ended with Series 16 in 1999. In the 1990s Grange Hill was repeated in full on digital satellite and cable channel UK Gold, which broadcast the late 1970s and early 80s episodes of the show. In 1998, it reappeared on sister channel UK Gold Classics, which was a digital-only channel showing programmes previously aired on UK Gold, and Grange Hill was part of its schedule. The channel lasted only six months, however, before becoming UK Gold 2 in April 1999. Interest in Grange Hill was renewed in the late 1990s and the series celebrated its 20th anniversary with the introduction of sinister Scottish bully Sean Pearce (Iain Robertson), who carried a knife and slashed the face of a classmate. Cast member Laura Sadler, who was heavily involved in this storyline, died after falling out of a building in June 2003; four years earlier her Grange Hill character Judi Jeffreys had been killed after slipping and falling out of the window of a burning storeroom in the school.
By 2001, the series was almost entirely issue-led and the decision to tackle the subject of rape upset some parents. But when Phil Redmond took over production of Grange Hill in 2003, his plan was to get the show back to its roots and the issues were toned down as Redmond skewed the show towards a younger audience. In early 2006, it was announced that a film of Grange Hill was to be released in late 2007 focusing on the lives of former pupils; the film has not yet come to fruition.
Grange Hill returned on 14 April 2008 with its final series, including a return of the original theme music. Series 31 returned to BBC1 after the 2007 series was shown exclusively on the CBBC Channel.
For its first 25 years Grange Hill was produced in-house by the BBC, then the show was made independently for the corporation by Mersey TV, the production house founded by Redmond (and later renamed as Lime Pictures), hence the reason for the production move.
Television Centre years: 1978–85
Location external and some interior scenes in Grange Hill were originally filmed at real schools in London. The first of these would be Kingsbury High School in north London, which was used as the Grange Hill setting for the first two series. For the series 3, in 1980, exterior filming moved to Willesden High School (now Capital City Academy) in Willesden Green, which was similar in looks to Kingsbury and was also situated in a residential area of the capital. In 1981, Grange Hill moved to Holborn College (now Fulham Preparatory School) in Greyhound Road, Hammersmith. This school looked very different from the two that had been used previously, and it was also in a built-up area of London. Holborn College was the longest serving of the "real schools", remaining on screen until 1985. Up to and including 1985, interior scenes were shot at the BBC Television Centre in London.
Elstree years: 1985–2002
In 1985, production shifted to the former ATV studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The BBC had purchased the studio complex the previous year. The studios, now known as BBC Elstree Centre, were the location for some exterior filming from Series 8 on the closed Elstree set. A 1960s office block, Neptune House in the facility now doubled as Hill's "lower school".
The change was explained on screen with an elaborate storyline whereby Grange Hill merged with rival schools Brookdale and Rodney Bennett to form a new school, Grange Hill. In Series 8 the merger had taken place and Grange Hill operated as a split-site school; the former Rodney Bennett building (Neptune House) being the lower school and the original Grange Hill building (still Holborn College) the upper school.
In series 9, the Upper School building was condemned after a fire, allowing production of Grange Hill to fully move to Elstree including studio work. Grange Hill was, at this time, made as an outside broadcast in the same way as its stablemate, EastEnders. New producer Diana Kyle switched filming to a single camera format from 1999, at which time a filmic effect was also added, to the displeasure of some fans.
A new school entrance set was unveiled in 1990 and remained in use until 2002, with cosmetic modifications along the way. However, as the 1990s progressed more use was made of real schools including the Nicholas Hawksmoor School and Bushey Meads School, and St Audrey's School in Hatfield. The headmistress of Bushey Meads School was said to be delighted Grange Hill was moving to Liverpool in 2002.
Liverpool years: 2003–08
Early in 2002 it was announced that Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond had signed a deal for his production company Mersey TV to produce the next three series of the programme. Production moved to Mersey TV's studios in Childwall, Liverpool from Series 26 onwards and for the first time in many years the appearance of Grange Hill School itself would change radically. On screen an explosion ripped through the school at the end of Series 25; during Series 26 tarpaulins covered most of the new "school" to mask the "fire damage".
Phil Redmond originally wanted children from all over the country to participate in the relaunched Grange Hill, having a variety of regional accents in the series as opposed to just the London area voices which had become associated with the programme. In the event new characters were almost exclusively cast from the north-west of England due to the logistics of the child employment laws.
Real schools in the locality were also used including Croxteth Comprehensive, Holly Lodge Girls' School and St Hilda's C of E High School in Liverpool. In 2005, the former Brookside Parade set at Mersey TV was redeveloped to benefit Grange Hill and the new "Creative Learning Centre" subsequently became an integral part of the show. With the cancellation of Grange Hill, the CLC exterior set has now been turned into skateboard park set for Grange Hill's stablemate show Hollyoaks while the former Grange Hill school frontage has become a permanent exterior for Hollyoaks High.
Grange Hill was intended for a young adult and teen audience as the programme has covered many controversial storylines, ranging from students throwing benches into the swimming pool (1978; as a result of which, following letters of complaint from teachers and parents, the episode was withdrawn from the repeat season), rape (2001), heroin addiction (1986), Asperger syndrome (2001), knife crime (1998) and attempted suicide (2005), prompting many complaints from viewers. Grange Hill broke new ground by the inclusion of a gay teacher, Mr Brisley, who was in the cast from 1992 to 1999.
In 2005, the character Holly Parsons was wrongly heralded as Grange Hill's first deaf character. While it is true that the actress who played her, Rebecca-Anne Withey, is the series' first deaf cast member, Grange Hill first featured a deaf character, Eric Wallace, in 1985.
During the final series in 2008, Grange Hill cut back on the harder-hitting issues and concentrated more on the early years of secondary school. The final series, though concentrating mainly on lighter aspects of school life, still dealt with some social issues; a Year 6 pupil battled with dyslexia while it turned out school bully Chloe Moore had to care for a disabled parent.
In 2007 BBC Children's ordered major changes to Grange Hill so that it fitted in with the new requirement that all programmes under the CBBC banner must appeal to an audience age 12 and under – younger than the traditional age group for Grange Hill, which was the same as to slightly younger than the secondary school characters. Under a deal signed in 2005 Lime Pictures was contracted to produce Grange Hill until 2008, so changes began to be made.
For series 31, Lime Pictures creative director Tony Wood set about the task of meeting CBBC's new requirements. He shifted much of the action away from general school life to "The Grange", the school's multimedia learning centre, which was given a radical makeover and became as much a "hang out" as a learning resource. The emphasis was now on younger characters with a group of Year 6 pupils regularly coming to use The Grange from primary school; storylines were much lighter and fantasy sequences were introduced. One episode, "Boarderman", saw a Year 7 pupil become a masked skateboarding superhero campaigning for an end to the school's ban on skateboarding. In another, "Veggin' out", a girl and her classmates smuggled animals from a local petting farm into school, believing they were destined for slaughter.
The Observer reported on 13 January 2008 that the BBC's intention was to shift the action away from Grange Hill School and into The Grange completely. Phil Redmond responded in the same article by calling for Grange Hill to be scrapped, saying the programme had been "robbed of its original purpose". Redmond had been planning a hard-hitting storyline to return Grange Hill to its gritty origins in series 31, and although he signed off the changes he believed it wasn't his show any more.
On 6 February 2008, the BBC announced Grange Hill was to be axed after exactly 30 years. The announcement was made by CBBC controller Anne Gilchrist just two days before the show's official 30th birthday.
Grange Hill ended on Monday 15 September 2008 with a further return appearance by Todd Carty, in which Tucker persuaded his nephew Togger Johnson not to give up on school like he did. Other than that there would be no spectacular conclusion; characters simply walked out of the school gates after their end-of-term prom, an almost mirror-image of how pupils walked into the school gates in the very first episode.
In 2006, the BBC had announced big plans for the show's 30th birthday including special programming on BBC2, possible repeats and a lavish reunion of former stars during 2008. But in the event, none of these celebrations happened aside from a special BBC Radio 4 programme Grange Hill: Soap Pioneer broadcast on 4 September 2008. The last Grange Hill was watched by 500,000 viewers.
Seven months later, Ashes to Ashes paid homage to the series in its episode 2.1 (airing 20 April 2009). In that episode, the time-travelling protagonist, DI Alex Drake, sees her daughter Molly incorporated into an episode of Grange Hill on the evening of 3 or 5 April 1982 [calendar indicates 3 April; the news report was from 5 April]. Molly (in new footage) tells headmistress Bridget McClusky (appearing as archival footage and Gwyneth Powell's newly recorded audio) that she and Tucker got into a fight when Tucker said her mother Alex was dead.
The show spawned a successful spin-off called Tucker's Luck (1983–1985), which ran for three series, and furthered the acting career of Todd Carty. The three series saw the two lead characters (Tucker and Alan) finding work. The 1986 cast released Grange Hill: The Album, with two singles: "Just Say No" (tying in with a character's heroin addiction) and "You Know the Teacher (Smash Head)". The album was re-released on CD on 12 November 2007, as part of the BBC's 30th Anniversary celebrations.
In 2005, Justin Lee Collins reunited some of the cast members from the 1980s in the documentary Bring Back...Grange Hill.
The original theme used from 1978 to 1989 (albeit an updated recording from 1988 to 1989), which returned in a much edited format for the final series in 2008, was "Chicken Man" by Alan Hawkshaw, a track from the Themes International music library composed one hour before it was recorded during a session in Munich, Germany. Grange Hill was the first programme to use it as a theme followed by the popular quiz show Give Us a Clue, whose makers used it from 1979 to 1982, despite it already being played on Grange Hill. Give Us A Clue used a less dynamic custom arrangement more in keeping with the style of light entertainment programming.
From 1990, a new, more contemporary-sounding theme, written for the series by Peter Moss, was used. Moss had previously written some special hip-hop music for a storyline in Series 11 of Grange Hill. In 1995 the end theme was re-edited and re-recorded to reduce its length to just 35 seconds, the first edit in 4 years of the theme. This removed some of the various background elements and sharpened the end notes considerably. However, during this period in particular (1995–2000) several versions were used, with a variety of slightly longer edits creating different lead outs depending on the mood and theme of the episode. His theme tune lasted until 2007, although as the years progressed less and less of it was heard as the opening titles got increasingly shorter, with the final version being no more than 12 seconds long. For the final series, an abbreviated edit of the original version of "Chicken Man" was reinstated as the main theme.
The last four notes of the original theme song were heard when Brookside, one of Phil Redmond's other TV series, aired its final episode in November 2003.
Mr Starling appeared only once during Series One, and his initial, E., was shown underneath the name of the school in the first episode: the authority figure most regularly seen during this time was the Head of First Year, Mrs Monroe (Dorothea Philips). Mr Llewellyn did not appear on screen during the 1980 series: the day-to-day running of the school was left to the highly competent but much put-upon deputy head Mr Keating (Robert Hartley), who was also deputy head under Mrs McClusky until 1984. Similarly, Mr McNab was never seen at all during the mid-1990s; the most senior authority figure being Mr Robson who at this point was deputy head. Mr Robson himself did not appear on screen during Series 27, even though he was still headmaster for the early part of the series. Mrs McClusky, perhaps Grange Hill's best known head teacher, was demoted to deputy head temporarily in 1985 having had to reapply, unsuccessfully, for her post following the merger of Grange Hill with Brookdale and Rodney Bennett. When the new head, Mr Humphries, was killed in a road accident the following year, Mrs McClusky was again acting head and her permanent headship was later confirmed.
The final headmistress of Grange Hill was Miss Gayle, introduced as deputy head in the 2007 series although she did not appear in Series 31.
During the 1980s, when Grange Hill merchandising was at its height and the series arguably at its most popular, a number of annuals and novels were published.
Eight annuals were published from 1981 to 1988.
Comic strip adventures appeared in the short-lived BEEB magazine, which portrayed new stories, and the longer running Fast Forward, magazine which loosely followed the early 90s series. Additional comic strips occurred in School Fun and in the Radio Times. Grange Hill had its own dedicated magazine, but this only lasted two issues, although there was a holiday special too.
There were 14 short story books and novels, some of which were written or co-written by series creator Phil Redmond, but which also involved authors such as Robert Leeson and Jan Needle. Below is a full list of Grange Hill short story books and novels:
- Grange Hill Stories, by Phil Redmond. First published by the BBC in 1979. Short stories.
- Grange Hill Rules OK?, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. The first Grange Hill novel.
- Grange Hill Goes Wild, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. Novel
- Grange Hill for Sale by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1981. Novel
- Tucker and Co., by Phil Redmond. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
- Grange Hill Home and Away by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
- Great Days at Grange Hill, by Jan Needle. Published by Fontana Lions in 1984. Short stories that form a sort of prequel to Grange Hill Stories.
- Grange Hill After Hours, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
- Grange Hill Graffiti, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
- Grange Hill on the Run, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
- Grange Hill Heroes, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
- Grange Hill Rebels, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
- Grange Hill Partners, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel
- Ziggy's Working Holiday, by Phil Redmond and Margaret Simpson. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel
- Not In Front Of The Children, by Andy Martin. Published by DNA in 2015. An academic study of Grange Hill from Series 1 to the end of Series 16, including the 2 Christmas episodes + a brief study of the history of children's TV series and serials from 1960 to 1990. Contains photographs and full cast / crew credit.
In 1987 a video game was made for 8-bit computers including the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
Video & Home Media
The first and second series were originally released on the new technology of home video in the early 1980s. Both videos were edited to remove some storylines and thereby shorten running times, given the duration of early videocassettes. The front of the box for the series 1 video features a cast photograph (and small photos of specific individual characters) from series 3, as some characters pictured therein do not feature in that series. The series 2 videocassette box art features a similarly styled front cover, but with a cast photo from the correct year.
These abridged versions of the first two series of the show were also released on Betamax, Video 2000 & laserdisc around the same time.
Two DVD box sets covering the first four series were released on 12 November 2007. They were rated PG by the British Board of film classification. There are no subtitles, episodes are in 4:3 (the original format) and both box sets come with a booklet detailing each episode. Some episodes have been edited to remove pop music tracks that could not be cleared for DVD release, and studio scenes originally shot on video have been filmized.