Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Memories Of Grange Hill

It seems that nearly every news website that I've read over the past few weeks have mentioned the fact that the children's TV show  - Grange Hill - first aired on British screens forty years ago.

The series, about a school based in London and then in its later life - because filming moved to a new city - Liverpool, ran until 2008.

As I was born in 1979, I first came across the series in the early-to-mid 1980s. 

To say I loved it would be an understatement. There was a time in my life when I wanted to be on the show. That's how dear it was to me back then.

I have so many things that I'd like to write about Grange Hill that I think the best way to approach it is to have mini stories in today's post.

Zammo's Addiction
As I mentioned above, my introduction to Grange Hill came a few years into the series' run. The characters of my era, if you will, were Zammo, Roland, Gonch, Ziggy, Jackie, Fay, Robbie and I could go on.
The big story that I can remember is the one about Zammo's heroin addiction. It was quite a big deal back in the day as it was covered in news and even ended up stateside with Nancy Reagan bringing some of the actors over to the White House due to her involvement with the drug education program, D.A.R.E.

Annuals and Novels
I used to always ask for the Grange Hill annual every Christmas. I first came across them when I bought older annuals and novels at a school fete. I still have them somewhere.

Danny Kendall's Death
The series had a character named Danny Kendall. He was very complex. He had health issues, was a loner, but was integral to the series as he was the student who designed what turned into the school's new badge (the pink and yellow crest). Anyway, he went missing after stealing Mr Bronson's car (Mr Bronson was the best heel on TV back then!). An episode or two after he vanished, Bronson's car was found by a few of the students. They noticed Kendall was laying in the back, so they opened the door. His head fell back with his eyes opened. He had died. It was one of the first times I recall a character on a TV series that I followed passing away. The fact that he wasn't a man - and that children can die - hit me.

'High School Isn't Like Grange Hill'
I'll always remember this one. Whilst in my final year of junior school, a teacher from my upcoming high school came to our classroom to talk to us about what to expect from our move later in the year. This teacher used a line similar to 'high school isn't like what you see on Grange Hill.' It was BS in hindsight. My school had it all - bullying, the deputy headteachers shouting 'You Boy!', the drugs (maybe not heroin, but almost everything else like LSD, cannabis, cocaine), teenage pregnancies, fights with rival schools, shoplifting.. I could go on. You give me a Grange Hill storyline and I'd like to bet that I could tell you a similar real-life story. The teacher was full of it.

The Theme Tune Change
I recall the theme tune change in 1988 and thinking to myself 'What have they done!?' It was a spruced up version of the old tune (the one with the comic strip intro). I wasn't too keen on it. It didn't last long. An entirely new theme and intro was created within two years of the change. I wouldn't be surprised if people have forgotten this rendition sandwiched in between the two iconic tunes.

The Competition
If I am not mistaken, it was either the Radio Times - or another BBC publication - that had a competition in it where a young reader could win a part as an extra on the show. I entered (as expected!) despite being a few years younger than high school age.
Anyway, one Saturday morning, I was at home and the phone rang. I answered because my father had gone across the road to buy the newspapers. The person on the other end of the line informed me that I had won the competition to be a Grange Hill extra. Shocked, I ran out into the street and yelled out to the shop 'Dad! Dad!!!! I'm going to be on Grange Hill!!' He didn't come out. I was yelling as loud as I could when the shopkeeper popped his head out of the door. 'Can you tell my Dad to come out?' I shouted to him. His reply was 'He's on the phone.'
The first thought was 'why is he on the phone?' And then it all dawned on me. It was April Fool's Day and I had fallen for the ultimate prank. He still brings it up every April. I still haven't really avenged that one all these years later.

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