40th an­niver­sary of Grange Hill

To mark the 40th an­niver­sary of Grange Hill, Katharine Wootton re­mem­bers the back-of-the-bikeshed dra­mas and play­ground pol­i­tics that made us all love the show

YOURS (UK) - - Contents -

It was 1978 when the bell first rang for the start of les­sons at one of the most iconic schools around,

Grange Hill. From bored stu­dents to ex­as­per­ated teach­ers, break­time bus­tups to the heartache of teenage ro­mances, the show quickly gripped the na­tion’s chil­dren. And for those of us who were par­ents it en­sured peace and quiet for at least half an hour at tea time!

The idea for the drama came from writer Phil Red­mond, who had been try­ing to break into TV since the mid Sev­en­ties when he first had the idea for a show all about schools. Study­ing the so­ci­ol­ogy of ed­u­ca­tion as a ma­ture stu­dent at the time and the fact his mum was a school cleaner meant he had plenty of ma­te­rial to draw

DID YOU KNOW? Some in­te­rior scenes in Grange Hill were orig­i­nally filmed at real schools in Lon­don.

on and straight away he started writ­ing about a com­pre­hen­sive se­nior school in the fic­ti­tious north Lon­don sub­urb of Northam.

From the off, Phil was de­ter­mined this would be a drama for chil­dren about chil­dren, and so as film­ing be­gan he asked to bring the cam­era level down to a young­ster’s eye­line to show the au­di­ence their world as they saw it – a real nov­elty at the time. He also wanted to show a gritty, no-holds-barred de­pic­tion of school­days un­like the other ide­alised school pro­grammes that had gone be­fore, tack­ling many real heavy­weight is­sues, from teenage preg­nancy to home­less­ness and men­tal health.

Speak­ing about the drama one of its most fa­mous stars Todd Carty, who played Tucker Jenk­ins, said: “I’d wake up ev­ery morn­ing ex­cited about go­ing to the stu­dio. That was the best time of my life.”

He also praised the gritty sto­ry­lines. “Be­fore Grange Hill kids’

TV dra­mas had all been jolly hockey sticks and Billy Bunter. No one had been brave enough to try any­thing dif­fer­ent.”

One of the big­gest sto­ry­lines was Zammo McGuire’s heroin ad­dic­tion which ran over two se­ries from 19861987 and caused a riot of com­plaints from par­ents, the press and even the

House of Com­mons as politi­cians de­bated the sto­ry­line.

But for all this, the story led to one of the big­gest public­ity coups the

DID YOU KNOW? A spin-off show called Tucker’s Luck ran from 1983-1985 fo­cussed on for­mer pupils Tucker and Alan find­ing work

show ever had when it took up Nancy Rea­gan’s drugs cam­paign catch­phrase, Just Say No and the cast met Nancy at the White House in 1986. Fol­low­ing this, the child stars also re­leased their first-ever sin­gle, also called Just Say

No, which reached No.5 in the charts.

But it wasn’t al­ways hard-hit­ting se­ri­ous­ness. Like the best dra­mas, Grange Hill bal­anced trou­bling sto­ry­lines with silly fun, just like real school. One of the fun­ni­est episodes was from 1982 when class N1 vis­ited Chess­ing­ton Zoo. A day of ab­so­lute farce en­sued as pupil Jonah lost his bag in the sealion en­clo­sure, which lead him to be­ing chased by a zookeeper when he tried to re­trieve it. It was ap­par­ently lots of fun to film, too, as cast mem­bers later re­called the hi­lar­ity of per­form­ing es­capades and sneak­ing off from film­ing to watch Top of the Pops in a nearby stu­dio at BBC TV cen­tre in West Lon­don.

Through­out the late Sev­en­ties and Eight­ies, the show at­tracted huge au­di­ences. If you were a proper fan, you could also col­lect the Grange Hill nov­els and an­nu­als, as well as be­ing sure to catch the Grange Hill comic strip ad­ven­tures in BEEB mag­a­zine, School Fun and even the Ra­dio Times. Sadly, in later years, au­di­ences dwin­dled and in 2008, af­ter 30 years of fun, the gates of Grange Hill school shut for good.

■ A new ex­hi­bi­tion, 40 Years of Grange Hill, fea­tur­ing mem­o­ra­bilia from the show, runs at the Mu­seum of Liver­pool un­til Fe­bru­ary 2019. For more in­for­ma­tion call 0151 2070001 or visit www.liv­er­pool­mu­se­ums.org.uk

Pupilplot­ters! Be­hindthe smiles,chao­sis nev­er­far­away

The show’s cre­ator, Phil Red­mond, at the Grange Hill ex­hi­bi­tion in the Mu­seum of Liver­pool

Two of the hard-pressed staff, Mr Humphries (left) and Mr Bax­ter

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