Grange Hill began in February 1978 and revolutionised children’s television. It showed a world that its viewers knew all too well, that of school life, and it wasn’t afraid to shy away from the issues that affected them.
Grange Hill was created by Phil Redmond, who would later go on to create Brookside and Hollyoaks, and was his first series comission. Redmond had just completed a social studies degree at Liverpool University and a large part of this degree consisted of the sociology of education. Using this, and his own experiences of attending a Comprehensive school, Redmond began to write Grange Hill.
Having been turned down by every major ITV company, Grange Hill was finally accepted by Anna Home, an Executive Producer of Children’s Drama at the BBC. She had already been looking to produce a series about ‘school life’ and after discussions with Phil Redmond, commissioned the first series of Grange Hill in 1976.
Colin Cant was assigned as the first director of Grange Hill and much of the look and feel of the series was down to him. Cant initiated searches for cast amongst comprehensive and stage schools, finally coming up with a cast who would ensure that the series worked.
Amongst that cast were Todd Carty as Tucker Jenkins and Michelle Herbert as Trisha Yates. As the male and female leads of the series, the correct casting was essential. As Tucker Jenkins, Todd Carty played the lovable rogue, whilst Trisha was the girl who was not afraid to stand up for herself. Their portrayal of these characters, coupled with strong scripts and a talented supporting cast, helped Grange Hill to make a real impact with viewers.
Filming began in the summer of 1977 and the first episode aired on BBC 1 on the 8th February 1978. Grange Hill became an instant success with its intended audience of kids, but adults found the series’ realism offensive, with the behaviour of the pupils causing real concern.
It didn’t stop the BBC instantly commissioning a second series with double the number of episodes. Grange Hill continued to go from strength to strength, always under the watchful eye of Phil Redmond who retained a role as Executive Producer.
In 2002, Redmond’s Mersey TV took over production of Grange Hill for the BBC, ensuring that Grange Hill remained as relevant to the youth of today as the first series did to its viewers in 1978.
However, in 2008, Grange Hill closed it’s doors after 30 years when it was axed by the BBC. At the request of the BBC, the last series had been aimed at a younger audience, much to Phil Redmond’s unhappiness. The series ended on 15th September 2008.