Grange Hill movie to take a look at Britain now, says creator Phil Redmond

Grange Hill creator Sir Phil Redmond has announced his long-running BBC TV school drama series is returning as a film, which will reflect the realities of the modern-day classroom.

The series, which ran for 30 years, is set to hit the big screen in 2023.

Sir Phil told BBC Breakfast that casting and production would get under way this year.

He said some old characters may return, but the film will focus on a "realistic view of what education is like now".

Speaking about his plans for the film, he said: "You just go out as honestly as you can and try to reflect society as it is, try to be as truthful as you can within the bounds of fiction and do the research properly.

"One of the things I've always done is work with great young teams to actually deliver the vision.

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"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."

'Real kids'

Grange Hill appeared on TV from 1978 to 2008, tackling some topics that were viewed as taboo at the time for a children's TV show, such as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, periods and student-teacher relationships.

"Really what the controversy boiled down to was that we were showing real kids with real working-class accents on the screen," Sir Phil added.

"It wasn't particularly the issues itself, it was that we were actually changing that perception that children's television should all be Secret Garden and Enid Blyton".

Sir Phil RedmondGetty Images

Last month, Sir Phil called for more gritty storylines in soaps as he was knighted. After receiving his honour, the Merseyside-born screenwriter criticised modern "comfortable, non-contentious" programming and said soaps needed to "tackle the real social issues".

  • Sir Phil Redmond wants soaps to tackle real issues

Open auditions for the Grange Hill reboot start soon, and since the announcement, and one of the show's former stars, Lee MacDonald, who played Zammo on the show, told the BBC he "would love to do it".

Lee MacDonald as Sammy 'Zammo' McGuire in Grange Hill

His popular character made the headlines for his battle with a heroin addiction. "The transformation from his happy-go-lucky Zammo character to stealing off [his friend] Roland, licking the drugs off the floor in one of the scenes at the end was horrific," he said.

"So on the back of that, we got to sing Just Say No in the White House," he added, referring to the show's anti-drugs single, which US First Lady Nancy Reagan invited them over to perform in 1986.

"How cool is that?!

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Back in 2006 the Liverpool Echo reported that Sir Phil had a Grange Hill film in the pipeline, and he told the paper at the time he had been thinking about the idea for two years, and had written a script with the hope of the film being released in 2007.

The 2022 version has been written by Sir Phil alongside Celyn Jones, who played English teacher Mr Green in the TV series.

Jones joked that Grange Hill was like "the Bat signal that he [Sir Phil] couldn't ignore from Wayne Manor any longer".

They are unsure yet as to whether it will get a big-screen release or go straight to streaming, but they are hoping for the former.

Hint at Brookside return

Sir Phil, who is also the creator of Hollyoaks and Brookside, said he has not been short of offers from his other acting friends. "I've also got all the old Brookie crew and Hollyoaks gang saying they'd love to be in it," he said. "So who knows if we're gonna do Grange Hill this year, perhaps we'll go to Brookie next and Hollyoaks the year after that."

He hinted that Brookside, the Liverpool-based soap which ran from 1982 to 2003, and famously featured one of the first lesbian kisses on primetime British TV, could be next in line for a return.

"We couldn't possibly say at this stage," he said. "It's its 40th anniversary later in the year, how about that?"

He continued: "The whole world seems to be going back to the 80s, so why not?"

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