BBC TV series Grange Hill was one of the longest-running programmes on British television, starting its 30-year run in 1978 and airing for the final time on 15th September 2008. It was written by Phil Redmond, who also created the Channel 4 soaps, Hollyoaks and Brookside.
It was set in a fictional comprehensive school, Grange Hill, in the London borough of Northam – also fictitious. The series followed pupils’ lives as they progressed through school. It was controversial from the onset, gaining a reputation for its realistic, gritty storylines that were in stark contrast to previous school dramas which followed an idealised image.
The show spawned some memorable characters, who literally grew up before viewers’ eyes. Perhaps the most memorable was Peter “Tucker” Jenkins, played by EastEnders star Todd Carty from 1978 to 1982. He was a main character for the first four seasons and returned for guest appearances throughout the show’s run. He also had his own spin-off series, Tucker’s Luck. The show followed his progression from a rebellious child and teenager into a young unemployed adult.
Another long-running character was Suzanne Ross – also played by a future EastEnders star, Susan Tully. As a Grange Hill pupil from 1980 to 1984, she was one of the school’s most popular rebels. She stood up to bullies such as Gripper Stebson and waged a long-running battle against headmistress Mrs McCluskey (played by Gwyneth Powell) so that she could wear her own clothes rather than the uniform to school. Suzanne left Grange Hill without sitting her exams – a decision she later regretted. In reality, Tully had left to take up her role as Michelle Fowler in EastEnders.
As it does in the real world, life at Grange Hill involved numerous school trips. One of the most memorable outings took place during series three (in 1980) when the staff took the pupils on a minibus trip to help refurbish a new outdoor centre.
On arrival, Tucker is asked to pitch the tents but he puts a tent belonging to Cathy Hargreaves and Trisha Yates – played by Lindy Brill and Michelle Herbert respectively – on an ants’ nest, wreaking havoc. Trying to avoid having to work on the refurbishment, Trisha and Cathy sneak off to hide in a creaky building but Cathy injures her ankle when her foot goes through the floor.
After a parent-teacher meeting about the costs of the work concludes that the refurbishments are going to end up being too expensive, the outdoor project is suspended. Scenes filming the eventual completion of the outdoor centre were planned as the season’s finale but BBC cutbacks meant they were never filmed and the plot was abandoned.
After 30 years, Grange Hill was cancelled after BBC chiefs decided the series had run its course and many generations of new pupils had passed through the ranks.
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