BBC axes Grange Hill after creator says taboo-breaking show has 'lost its purpose'

The BBC has announced that it is dropping the school drama Grange Hill from the schedules after 30 years on British television screens. The last episodes of the cult series that broke taboos on teenage pregnancy, violence and drug-taking with its uncompromising portrayal of life in a London comprehensive school will be broadcast at the end of this year.

The decision not to commission a further series comes barely a month after the programme's creator, Phil Redmond, said that the edgy children's drama had lost its purpose.

Anne Gilchrist, the controller of Children's BBC (CBBC), said that axing Grange Hill was part of a wider attempt to make the BBC more accurately reflect children's lives today. "Part of CBBC's reputation for reflecting contemporary Britain back to UK children has been built upon Phil Redmond's brilliantly realised idea and of course it's sad to say goodbye to such a much loved institution," she said.

"The lives of children have changed a great deal since Grange Hill began and we owe it to our audience to reflect this. We are actively seeking out new and exciting ways of bringing social realism to the CBBC audience through drama and other genres. Yesterday, we announced two Newsround Specials tackling divorce and knife crime and we will continue to make programmes about the ups and downs of contemporary Britain."

In January, Redmond had criticised the BBC's plans to "soften" the show by moving it to a "multimedia technology college" and "creative learning centre" called "The Grange".

Redmond, whose Channel 4 soap Brookside was dropped from the schedules after 21 years in 2003, had been working on a six-year plan for Grange Hill that would retain its warts-and-all approach to teenage life in urban Britain. But the BBC decided that his programme should target children between six and 12 rather than its traditional audience of 15- to 16-year-olds.

"We were all prepared to bring it right back to its original hard-hitting social edge for its 30th anniversary because we knew it would have got a lot of publicity and a lot of interest," Redmond said. "It was at the very first storyline conference that we were told there had been an editorial shift, so that went down like a lead balloon."

"I don't like keeping things going when the point has been lost," Redmond added. "I do now think the point of Grange Hill has been lost, and 30 years is a nice time for it to hang up its mortar board."

Senior executives at the BBC agreed. "We have to not confuse our own nostalgia for something that we loved for something that children will want nowadays," Ms Gilchrist said yesterday.

First broadcast in February 1978, the show was compulsory teatime viewing for a generation of teenagers. It became a launch pad for many now-established actors, with alumni including Todd Carty and Susan Tully. Carty and Tully, who played Pete "Tucker" Jenkins and Susanne Ross in the first episode, went on to star as siblings Mark and Michelle Fowler in EastEnders.

The film director Anthony Minghella, who won an Oscar for The English Patient, was an early script editor on the show.

Redmond's scripts refused to flinch from using actors as young as 13 to discuss highly contentious subjects. Most controversially, over two series in 1986, Samuel "Zammo" Maguire, played by Lee MacDonald, plunged into heroin addiction.

Several harrowing scenes led to the BBC being flooded with thousands of letters of complaint from parents and teachers. In response, the cast released a single that peaked at No 5 in the charts, called "Just Say No", prompting a national anti-drugs campaign.

What Grange Hill's pupils did next

Laura Sadler

Sadler, who played Judi Jeffreys in Grange Hill, went on to establish herself as nurse Sandy Harper in Holby City. She died in 2003 after a 40ft fall from a block of flats in west London. The fall mirrored the death of Jeffreys, who was killed after falling out of a burning building.

Letitia Dean

Having played mouthy student Lucinda Oliver in Grange Hill, Dean was persuaded by producer Phil Redmond to take a part in his Liverpool soap Brookside. Then, in 1984, she was chosen for to play Sharon Watts in the BBC's new soap, EastEnders, a role she retained for over two decades, albeit with a six-year interlude.

Michelle Gayle

As Fiona Wilson, Gayle was half of Grange Hill's abysmal answer to rap duo Salt 'n' Pepa, Fresh 'n' Fly. Yet another who graduated to Albert Square, Gayle played Hattie Tavernier in EastEnders. Preferring music to acting, Gayle later had hit singles with, among others, "Sweetness". She was nominated for three Brits, appeared in the West End, and resurrected her TV career on the reality TV show Reborn in the USA.

Todd Carty

Carty's Peter "Tucker" Jenkins was probably the most famous Grange Hill student of all. Carty went on to play Mark Fowler in EastEnders, Gabriel Kent in The Bill, and has since won Celebrity Mastermind, appeared in Heartbeat and Holby City, and starred in the theatre as King Rat in Dick Whittington.

Susan Tully

Tully, who played Suzanne Ross in Grange Hill between 1981 and 1984, went on to star as Michelle in the first episode of EastEnders. Her character was popular but Tully has resisted several requests to return, turning her hand instead to directing, with credits including The Bill and Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution