Fay Lucas was one of Grange Hill’s most enduring characters in the mid-1980s. From 1982 to 1987, the blonde sports fanatic was a firm favourite of male viewers and had more than her fair share of teen angst – from being accused of having a crush on form tutor, to toying with the affections of classmate Julian Fairbrother and French exchange student Jean-Paul. Though Fay remains best know for her “affair” with Mr King, which brought about the maths teacher’s downfall and shattered Fay’s dreams of becoming a PE teacher. Twenty years after finishing work on Grange Hill, actress Alison Bettles still pops up on TV in bit parts and Grange Hill reunion specials. Her young sons are following in mum’s footsteps – Arthur, appeared in EastEnders aged 11 while Albert, 9, appeared in the acclaimed episodes of Doctor Who, “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”. Both boys are also regulars in TV commercials and 2005 saw Alison welcome a baby girl into the family. In 2006 Alison very kindly agreed to talk to GH Online , who have kindly agreed to this interview being republished here.
So Alison, how did you acting career begin? You were already on screen before Grange Hill in various TV commercials.
My acting career began when my brother Dean was in Oliver Twist in the West end. I was about 8, when I used to travel up every evening to watch my brother. He was on the books of Sylvia Young. She asked me to join and the rest was history! My first job was in a chocolate biscuit commercial.
I felt very really excited when I finally, after about four auditions got offered the part of Fay. I think I was auditioning for the part of Fay and possibly Annette.
What did you think of Fay as a character – did you think of her as a lone star or as part of a double act like you had with Nadia Chambers’ Annette and Lisa York’s Julie?
I felt my character as Fay went hand in hand with Annette. When I first started the was just the 2 of us, she was the naughty one , in was the good. (I would have loved to have done some of the things that she had to do, like throwing eggs at Jonah and Zammo!)
Your mum was Grange Hill’s senior chaperone – did that help you get in the show at all? Was it strange with your mother as a chaperone on the set?
I actually had the part of Fay before my mum became the head chap. She ended up being a chaperone because of me. I think I was very lucky to have my mum as chaperone, and always felt very comfortable with her around. She was everyone’s mum. I did get shouted at more that anybody else though, which I suppose is only natural. Since having my own children I can see where she was coming from.
My favourite scenes were probably the Mr King stuff, I really did enjoy the challenge, and doing stuff that was a little more grown up. My least favourite would have been the scenes with the lady teacher forgive me for forgetting her name, but I have a brain like a sieve!
Tell us about going to America to take part in the “Just Say No Campaign”, with the other cast. This must have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience – what did you get from it?
Going to America was amazing. It is only now that I realise how privileged I am. I learnt such a lot about drugs and visited lots of different children talking about the awareness of drugs. Going to the Yankees Stadium, and the White House are definitely something to feel privileged about.
What do you think Fay would be doing today?
I think Fay would be working in a bank now or may be a secretary.
Would you like your children to appear in Grange Hill?
I wouldn’t mind my children appearing in Grange hill, although I wouldn’t want them to be in a long running series, and miss out on their education, as I did.
Have you got copies of your episodes, and have the boys seen them?
My dad used to video all the episodes over the years. I think I showed my first little boy some of them, but after that they were left at my parents house, and not seen again. Maybe I will get them out again, I think we would not stop laughing!
Are you still in touch with any of your cast mates – if so who are your closest friends among them?
I am still in contact with Ruth Carraway (Helen) and Lisa York (Julie); I have never lost contact with them. I have since made contact with Julie-Ann Steel (Diane Cooney) and have become good friends again over the past five years.It is lovely to have spent many years growing up together, and now seeing each other’s children growing up.
On a similar note, it’s probably fair to say you were very popular with male fans too. Who wrote the most fan mail, boys or girls, and were there plenty of romantic propositions?
I would not have thought at the time about my fan mail, thinking back I did get mainly male letters, but there were also lots of girls who said they wanted to be like me. I did get quite a lot of gifts also, and some quite regular writers!
Thanks to Alison Bettles
Interview by Simon Luxton for GH Online © GH Online 2006.
Reproduced by kind permission of GH Online custodians.