Monday, 19 August 2013

Theme Time : Alan Hawkshaw - Grange Hill

Tucker, Gonch, Hollo, Zammo, Ziggy, Stewpot, Pogo, Roly, Gripper, Tegs...names that probably mean nothing to a lot of people. But if you're of a certain age, if you watched kids TV anytime between 1978 and up to the mid 90s, you'll know that these were just some of the pupils of Grange Hill

The brain child of Phil Redmond (later to devise Brookside and Hollyoaks) Grange Hill was nothing short of groundbreaking when it hit our TV screens in the pre teatime slot on Wednesday 8th February, 1978. This was, as Redmond intended, a real slice of life for an intended audience who could relate to it, they lived it after all, Monday to Friday at schools not unlike Grange Hill - multi ethnic comprehensives in Thatcher's Britain, unruly, underfunded and at the cutting edge of big relevant issues such as drug abuse, bullying and sex. It was a real eye opener, the first time real kids and their real issues were brought to the screens of children's television. As Stuart Maconie so beautifully put it, Grange Hill brought something of the spirit of Play For Today to the world of Play Away. It gripped as many adults as it did children.

The theme tune was written by Alan Hawkshaw and was in fact titled 'Chicken Man' It's instantly recognisable and utterly iconic and was the show's signature from 1978 to 1989, before returning for the show's final season in 2008 some thirty years after it was first heard. 

Inbetween 1990 and 2008 the show's theme was penned by Peter Moss, a very 90s tinny piece of music that whilst still evocative just isn't as infamous as Hawkshaw's original. My real viewing era of Grange Hill was probably the mid 80s to the early 90s with Mrs McCluskey running the school and I certainly consider myself one of those viewers utterly terrified by the bewigged deputy headmaster Mr Bronson, played by Michael Sheard (who regularly portrayed Nazis in war films...I'm not sure which role was the most evil!)

I well remember Danny Kendall the artistic but troubled young pupil killing himself in Bronson's car and indeed Zammo, dying of an overdose, before he and the rest of the cast fronted the anti-drugs campaign 'Just Say No'; a huge crossover in the 1980s. Indeed the 80s saw the show probably at its highpoint, with TV tie-in novels, annuals, pop singles, spin off series (Todd Carty's eponymous Tucker's Luck) comic strips and even a computer game all available for fans to devour

Grange Hill was filmed in and around London, including Elstree studios - just across the way from the EastEnders and Holby City sets, which was where many of the child actors would end up upon leaving Grange Hill - and was set in a fictional London borough. However, Liverpudlian Redmond originally had nearby St Helens, my home town, in mind as his fictional setting for the school but was persuaded to locate it and film it all in London for ease. It did eventually move to the North West in its final years, with the last few series being filmed on site in Liverpool.

In the words of Tucker, 'Flippin' eck Benny!'

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