Fondly remembered children's show Grange Hill is to return in 2023... as a film.
Set in a London comprehensive, the show entertained generations of kids, running from 1978 to 2008. Now, its original creator Phil Redmond has announced a big screen return.
The plot and cast are currently unknown, though given that the show will have been absent for 15 years, it's safe to assume that all the kids now look a bit different. That said, Redmond hints that some old favourites might return. (Sadly, that will not include Nicholas Donnelly who played Mr MacKenzie in the 1980s — his death at the age of 83 was announced as this article was being written.)
Speaking to the BBC, Redmond set out his stall for an unflinching film, tackling contemporary issues: "So we'll just take a look at the way Britain is now, and not the way policymakers would like us to think it is. We will take a realistic view of what education is like now and what that means to kids going through it."
That would be very much in keeping with the original show, which wasn't afraid to tackle topics such as drug taking, abortion and suicide. In 1986, the youthful cast reached number 5 in the UK charts with anti-drug song Just Say No, embedded here for your viewing pleasure:
All of which gets us thinking... where exactly was this remarkable school meant to be?
Where is Grange Hill?
Although the show was coy about its own geography, Grange Hill was very much a London comprehensive. What's more, the fictional London borough name of Northam was occasionally used within the show.
That's in keeping with where it was filmed. Over its first 20 years, numerous real schools were used for exterior shots — all of them in north London or just over the border in Borehamwood (very close to the set of Eastenders, where so many Grange Hill stars washed up, as it happens). The production was expelled to Liverpool in the Noughties.
On our Unreal City map, which collects together fictional locations in London, we've placed Northam and Grange Hill in the Willesden Green area. The show was partly filmed for a time at Willesden High School, and this is roughly mid-way between other shooting locations in Hammersmith and Borehamwood. But that's just our take. At the end of the school day, Grange Hill is a reflection of every inner-city comprehensive, and not one place in particular.
Does London have a real Grange Hill?
Why, yes. You may have noticed that there's a station up on the north-eastern bit of the Central line called Grange Hill. That's just coincidence. The station has no connection to the TV production, and there is no school called Grange Hill in the area (though we can recommend the lovely Delicacy cafe near the tube station).
Edgware also contains its own Grange Hill, a street of generously sized semis, devoid of schools.
In addition, there are several Grange Schools and Grange Academies across London, but none with the exact school name. Grange Hill remains a figment of the imagination, but one anchored in reality more than most fictional schools.