GRANGE HILL

British Children's Serial Drama

Grange Hill is a successful children's soap opera set in a fictional East London comprehensive school. More controversial than traditional BBC children's dramas, Grange Hill examines how social and political pressures directly affect Britain's school children, rupturing cherished and long held images of sheltered youth and innocence.

The first two seasons concentrated on the lives of a group of dominantly working-class eleven-year-old students who started at Grange Hill Comprehensive in 1978. Bad boy Tucker Jenkins (Todd Carty) was the show's working-class anti-hero. His best friend Benny Green (Terry Sue Patt), a sweet--tempered black boy, battled with the dual problems of racial prejudice and poverty (his father was unemployed as a result of an industrial injury). Although he was a skilled footballer, he was stigmatized by poverty as teachers constantly reprimanded him for wearing the wrong school uniform or the old gym shoes.

When Tucker and friends reached their third year in school, a new generation of children entered Grange Hill. Every two years after this, a new class of younger students would share the limelight with their veteran classmates. The second group of Grange Hill pupils included another anti-hero, Zammo, the Tucker of his generation. A few years later, in the midst of national panic about drug abuse in schools, Zammo became addicted to drugs and glue sniffing. This narrative was conceived in conjunction with a national anti-drugs awareness scheme and was featured on other BBC children's programs like Blue Peter to educate children on the dangers of illegal drugs.

Generally, Grange Hill was not well received by parents and critics who condemned its images of worldly, disrespectful and disillusioned students. Children, on the other hand, found the series a little too idealistic. After the first season, producer Phil Redmond changed the tone of the show in response to children who complained that "things weren't tough enough." In all probability, the show would have been controversial as it engaged with an issue at the forefront of public debate--comprehensive schools. Labour Government policy mandated that these mixed ability schools would replace the two tier system of grammar and secondary modern schools by 1980. Comprehensive schools came to represent both utopian and dystopian visions of the nation's future. At the center of it all were the children, a disenfranchised group unable to participate in the molding of their future. Throughout the years, Grange Hill has explored this theme, the idea that children engage with and are affected by politics even though the public tries to protect them or deny their interest in social matters.

Phil Redmond's Grange Hill spinoffs continued to explore how government policy affected Britain's youth. Tucker's Luck (BBC 2, 1983-85) was aimed at slightly older children and teenagers and dealt with the problems facing working-class youth with few academic qualifications (like Tucker and his friends) in a world of growing unemployment. This series was neither as popular as nor as controversial as Grange Hill largely because it was shown against the early evening news on both BBC 1 and ITV.

-Moya Luckett

 

Grange Hill
Photo courtesy of BBC

CAST

Justin Bennett........................... Robert Craig-Morgan Alan Hargreaves........................... George Armstrong Benny Green ......................................Terry Sue Patt Tucker Jenkins....................................... Todd Carty Penny Lewis ..........................................Ruth Davies Trisha Yates ....................................Michelle Herbert Mr. Sutcliffe......................................... James Wynn Mr. Baxter......................................... Michael Cronin Andrew Stanton................................. Mark Chapman Cathy Hargreaves...................................... Lindy Brill Mr. Hopwood ........................................Brian Capron Pogo Patterson..................................... Peter Moran Michael Doyle ........................................Vincent Hall Mrs. McClusky................................. Gwyneth Powell Gripper Stebson................................... Mark Savage Duane Orpington.................................... Mark Baxter Stewpot Stewart..................................... Mark Burdis Pamela Cartwright............................ Rene Alperstein Annette Firman............................... Nadia Chambers Zammo McGuire ...............................Lee MacDonald Roland Browning .................................Erkan Mustafa Suzanne Ross .......................................Susan Tully Miss Mooney .......................................Lucinda Gane Lucinda .................................................Letitia Dean Scruffy McGuffy ....................................Fraser Cains Mr. Bronson ......................................Michael Sheard Ant Jones........................................ Ricky Simmons Mr. Griffiths....................................... George Cooper Ziggy Greaves............................. George Christopher Mr. Hankin............................................. Lee Cornes Chrissy Mainwaring............................. Sonya Kearns

PRODUCERS Anna Home, Colin Cant, Susi Hush, Kenny McBain, Ben Rea, Ronald Smedley, David Leonard, Albert Barber

PROGRAMMING HISTORY
300 c. 30-minute episodes.

BBC
8 February 1978-5 April 1978
2 February 1979-2 March 1979
8 January 1980-29 February 1980
30 December 1980-27 February 1981
28 December 1981
5 January 1982-5 March 1982
4 January 1983-4 March 1983
3 January 1984-2 March 1984
18 February 1985-22 April 1985
7 January 1986-1 April 1986
6 January 1987-27 March 1987
5 January 1988-11 March 1988
3 January 1989-10 March 1989
2 January 1990-9 March 1990
8 January 1991-15 March 1991
7 January 1991-13 March 1992
5 January 1993-12 March 1993

FURTHER READING

Messenger, Maire. "Tough Kids." The Listener (London), 15 February 1979.