GRANGE HILL'S MOST SHOCKING MOMENTS
LAST UPDATE 15 August, 2008
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Throughout its run, Grange Hill has always sought to break the boundaries of children's TV. And it succeeded on several occasions, especially in the early days. Canteen tabletop protests, drug taking and knifings all came under fire on "Points Of View".

The now-defunct Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) carpeted Grange Hill frequently. Where indicated, click to read the BSC's adjudication on a complaint made against the show. For more information visit the Ofcom web site (details below). Here are those GH storylines that brought out the Victor Meldrew in parents nationwide...
Tucker and Benny lark about in the school pool

Now everyone gets involved!
Grange Hill's first run-in came after programme 4 in the first series. The boys are having a swimming lesson when Winkle Graham cuts his foot and has to be taken to the sick bay. Hence Tucker, Benny and the gang are left unattended by the poolside. So they re-enter the water, initially to retrieve Benny's missing medallion but end up throwing benches into the water and using them as rafts!

Watch a clip of Tucker's splashing time here (RealPlayer required)

Teachers accused the BBC of gross irresponsibility. But Phil Redmond stood by the episode, saying he believed the escapade was a "totally innocuous piece of mischief - with all the rights and wrongs clearly set out so the audience would easily accept Tucker shouldn't have been doing what he was". To one teacher who suggested "even if the boy's leg had been ripped off, no self-respecting teacher would leave the class unattended", Phil pointed out the alternative would have been to leave the injured boy to bleed to death - which no self-respecting teacher would do!The episode was pulled from the first repeat run, but it was aired again in 1993.

 

Jessica Samuels leads Grange Hill's notorious canteen protest Jessica Samuels (Sara Sugarman) headed the Student Action Group, a mindless bunch of militants calling for the abolition of school uniform and other things. In a memorable episode, Jessica is incensed that pupils receiving free meals have to sit on designated tables.

So she jumps on the table demanding "We Want The Head!" and everyone else joins in. Sure enough, headmaster Mr Llewelyn is sent for.

Once Samuels puts her grievances to him, he abolishes free meals tables with immediate effect.So incensed were a few MPs by this episode it was debated in the House of Commons. No doubt schools everywhere put themselves on alert for copycats. Parents were more concerned by Mr Llewelyn's on-the-spot accession to the pupils' demands, saying this was a "weak" stance which could undermine teachers' authority.

Click here to watch a clip of this protest (RealPlayer required)
 

 

Pupils take over the Grange Hill school office
Having secured a climbdown on canteen seating, SAG thought they had nothing to lose. After Mr Llewelyn threw out proposals to abolish school uniform, Jessica Samuels took drastic action - and stormed Janet's office along with her cronies, plus Trisha Yates and Cathy Hargreaves. They called the press claiming a riot was taking place at the school, but Mr Llewelyn talked his way out of trouble. Eventually Bullet Baxter broke the door down; Samuels and cronies were expelled. Trisha and Cathy managed to flee the office but were later caught and suspended.

The office is torn apart! Watch here (RealPlayer required)

No doubt schools feared copycat sieges...

 

 

Pupils' champion Scruffy McGuffy was suspended for his role in organising an underground school magazine. The pupils were furious and demanded his reinstatement. In the last show of Series 6 the whole school marched in support of Scruffy, led by Claire, Suzanne and Christine. Their plan was to storm the school hall, but Mrs McClusky was wise to this and locked the entrances. But she didn't reckon for Jonah who sneaked into the school and unlocked the doors. The invasion went ahead. Then it emerged that Scruffy was asked back prior to the march, and pupils were furious they'd been hoodwinked again.

The 1995 repeat of this episode sparked a copycat protest in support of a teacher who was sacked at one secondary school.

Watch an edited clip of the march. (RealPlayer required)
 

 

Jeremy Irvine Jeremy Irvine had been winding his classmates up ever since he moved to Grange Hill. But his final prank ended in tragedy. While the school swimming pool was left unattended, Jeremy threw Fay's bangle in the water and dived in to retrieve it. Then Zammo went after him to "whip his trunks off". Zammo was horrified to find Jeremy lifeless at the bottom of the pool, and raised the alarm. Mr Devereaux pulled him out and Bullet tried resuscitating him, but to no avail. Zammo looked on in horror.

Jeremy's final moments (RealPlayer required)

Parents were upset by the graphic scenes of Jeremy's lifeless body. No doubt teachers were up in arms because they would never leave the pool unattended in real life.

 

 

GH's resident bad girl, Imelda Davis, is determined to get revenge on Ziggy Greaves for pushing her in the school pond. She discovers fibreglass in the boiler room of the old school building and, after testing it on some unsuspecting first years, stuffs the fibreglass down Ziggy's shirt. Ziggy's back is so badly lacerated he has to take time off to recover.

A copycat incident occurred at Bideford School, Devon (the webmaster's old school!) One teacher blasted the programme after the incident, which injured at least one boy.

 

Perhaps THE single-most controversial storyline in Grange Hill's history was the descent of Zammo Maguire from a happy-go-lucky rebel into a hopeless heroin addict during the 1986 series. 20 years on the story remains one of Grange Hill's best-known. But even before the episodes were screened, controversy was raging.

Zammo's heroin hell

The Daily Mirror went for the jugular with its front page spread on September 5th, 1985. Teacher's unions were furious this would encourage copycat behaviour; Grange Hill was already blamed for "increasing indiscipline" in schools.

Sister paper the Sunday Mirror twisted the knife in further when it learned a Liverpudlian character was planned for Grange Hill. In the best tabloid tradition a link was "made" between the new Scouse pupil and the drugs plot, with editors hoping for high circulation figures.

But Edward Barnes, head of CBBC, vigourously defended the storyline; pointing out Grange Hill's storyline would be moralistic and at the end no viewer would want to be in the addict's position. Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond was so incensed by the Sunday Mirror article, he offered a response in the Liverpool local press.Click below to read the Daily Mirror article:
Page 1
Page 2

Click below for the Sunday Mirror article and Phil Redmond's response:

Sunday Mirror
Phil Redmond's Reply

The full cuttings will open in a new window. Note that at this point, the identity of the addict was not being revealed and the Mirror speculated as to his identity. Interesting to note there are no girls on the "suspect list".
Daily Mirror, 05.09.1985
Daily Mirror, 05.09.1985
Sunday Mirror
Phil Redmond's reply

 

Following the success of "Just Say No!", Grange Hill aimed for chart success once again with another single, Smash Head!. The new song tackled the subject of violent staff attacking schoolchildren - an issue which was being talked about in schools throughout the country and which received some media attention. The lyrics were written by Phil Redmond. A video was made to accompany Smash Head! featuring Gonch and Ziggy and tackling the problem humourously.

While children connected with its brash stomping around, predictably, the adults hated it. But Smash Head! got people talking...

 

Ahead of the storyline in which Lucy Mitchell's mum died of an AIDS-related illness, Year 10 had an AIDS awareness workshop and learnt how to put on condoms using courgettes. Predictably, the girls took the exercise seriously but Dennis and the lads treated it as one big joke!

One parent complained to "Points Of View" - the clip was shown in "From Grange Hill To Albert Square" in 1998.

 

The bus driver spots the weapon
Wayne is impressed by Kevin's sharp-shooting
Kevin tries to hide the gun in class
Kevin's antics got the BBC shot!For most of the 1990s, Grange Hill behaved itself. But in 1996 the show incurred the full wrath of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission when it included a storyline about guns.

Kevin Jenkins was desperate to be accepted and Wayne's gang introduced him to ball bearing guns. Wayne dared him to shoot a duckling but the gang was disturbed. At school the weapon was found on Kevin - in his attempts to conceal it he shot Sarah-Jane in the arm.

The story led to uproar. The BCC panned the BBC for showing such a provocative storyline and two months after transmission, the Dunblane massacre shocked Britain. When Series 19 was repeated in the autumn, the guns storyline was erased completely.

Watch Kevin's secret revealed (RealPlayer required)

 

Sean Pearce, Grange Hill's evil bullySinister Sean Pearce joined Grange Hill, and used violence to get what he wanted. His best pal Alec fancied Judi, but she was dating Wayne. Also, Wayne saw through Sean's evil and stood up to him.

One wet evening, Wayne lent Judi his coat as she waited for a bus. While he returned to The Arches to fetch his wallet, a masked gang jumped Judi (thinking her to be Wayne) and slashed her face. Judi was permanently scarred. Sean was scared he'd get found out and successfully plotted to get Wayne suspended from school. Wayne defied the exclusion to prove his innocence. Eventually, Sean and Alec were arrested after a cross-school police chase.

Click for a short clip of Judi's attack. May upset young children. (RealPlayer required)

One parent wrote to "Points Of View" to complain about the slashing scene. The following week, a teenage viewer contacted POV to defend the storyline. The Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) also upheld complaints from viewers who felt the episode was too violent. Click here to read the BSC's adjudication.

Sean prepares to jump Wayne
Sean's knife
Judi is injured

 

Series 23 got off to a dramatic start when Spencer's racist dad coshed a black man in the street, leaving him seriously injured. Unknown to Mr Hargreaves, Spencer looked on in horror.

One viewer complained to the BSC that the attack was presented as socially acceptable. Once again the complaint was rejected, the Commission felt the attack was neither condoned or glamourised given the isolation Spencer felt as a result. Read more here.

 

Grange Hill was the hardest-hitting it had ever been in 2001. The sixth form were having trouble with hardcore racist thugs, Kelly was the subject of gossip because of her friendship with a lesbian girl and Tom raped girlfriend Leah without realising what he'd done.

Before the storyline involving Kelly was broadcast, National Viewers and Listeners' Association head John Beyer said: "They should not touch upon lesbianism in a children's programme. This is not a suitable subject for a children's soap opera and I think it may well go beyond many parents' expectations of such a series. I think this is a bit of a cynical ploy to introduce yet another controversial storyline aimed at keeping the programme in the headlines and the ratings up."Meanwhile, mother-of-two Catherine Firth complained to the Radio Times (31 March-6 April 2001), saying she was "appalled Grange Hill was raising the topics of lesbianism and rape" during a programme scheduled for 5pm. She added these were issues with which her 8-and 9-year-olds should not have to be concerned.

Nigel Pickard, the BBC's Controller of Children's Programmes, defended the show in his reply, saying the issues had been handled in a responsible manner and from the child's point of view. The Broadcasting Standards Commission also received complaints from viewers but these were not upheld.

Various clips from the Tom and Leah storyline are available at the Jessica Staveley-Taylor microsite - http://www.jessicastaveleytaylor.co.uk/video.html
Leah
Tom
Kelly
 

Other plots not as shocking but still near the knuckle...

1980 - ANTONI KARAMONOPOLIS DIES
Tucker and the lads defy a ban on visiting the local precinct. Antoni falls to his death after climbing on to the car park roof.
Video clip
1981 - MR HICKS HITS STEWPOT
Evil swimming teacher Mr Hicks (a proto-Mr Deverill) knocked Stewpot around in his class. When Baxter caught him, he whacked Hicks who got the sack.
Video Clip
1987 - SCHOOL RADIO PROTEST
Pupils hijack the school radio station and barricade themselves in the sixth form common room in protest at closed pupil profiles
Video clip
1989 - DANNY KENDALL DIES
Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie find the school rebel lifeless in Bronson's car.
1992 - CHRISSY'S PREGNANCY
All soaps have done it recently, but Chrissy Mainwaring's underage pregnancy was the first storyline of its type.
Video clip
1996 - VIOLENT FILM
Series 19 opened with pupils watching a horror film showing a school bus taken hostage at gunpoint. Precursor to the Kevin storyline; the sequence was specially shot.
All images from the Webmaster's video library

And there's more - if you can stand it! Further judgements on Grange Hill from OFCOM - which can be found on their web site. Click on the icon left.