lass Rebekah Joy Gilgan joined Grange Hill as the show was undergoing
a critical transitional point. The last of the "Just Say No"
crew were in their final year in the show, and the Year 10 class with Justine Dean and Matthew Pearson taking
centre stage. GH Online talks to Rebekah, who played bolshie Fran
Williams, about being the only Northern girl in the show, perception
of Grange Hill in the 1990s and thoughts on the show's demise.
As a Yorkshire lass, how did you come to be involved with Grange
Hill, a show with a distinctly London identity?
Was the fact that Fran was from the north of any significance to
In the audition they were seeking a dark haired girl, I just happened
to be Northern and I think they liked it.
Not particularly but I did have a cousin that come down from Newcastle
during one series.
How did you feel when you discovered you got the part?
What was your favourite storyline?
Like I had been chosen by God!! (it seemed like a complete fluke)
Probably the discovery of the twins, as it was a quirky story line.
At the time you joined Grange Hill, the programme was not enjoying
the high profile it did just five years earlier (Just Say No and
all that), and it would seem that the 1990s era of Grange Hill is
not remembered with the same fondness as the show's early years
and is almost always overlooked by journalists writing about Grange
Hill. Do you think this is fair?
I think that was just the natural peek for the program, but it was
still very popular as Sky TV was not around so it was still on a
Did you get on well with your co-stars? Are you still in touch
with any of them? And what of the adult actors - was there a "them
and us" off-screen between them and the child stars?
Generally we got on well, although there was some bitching and backstabbing
with all the prima donnas around, there was definitely a pecking
Tell us about coming to film on Dartmoor - was it as much the
big adventure for you all as actors as it was meant to be for your
Why did you leave Grange Hill when you did (Fran didn't stay for
her A-level year)?
No it wasn't an adventure, everyone hated it as we had to sleep
in bunk beds and cook our own dinners, and we were all used to hotels-
we were outraged!!
I left to pursue Emmerdale and I wanted to relocate up north to be
near my family.
Career-wise you were one of the more successful members of your
screen class - going on to Emmerdale and recently being seen under
the wheels of a train in Casualty. Did you ever think that Grange
Hill would open those doors for you?
Apart from yourself, some of your co-stars have gone on to lead
very successful careers, most notably Julie and Clare Buckfield -
did you imagine they would end up doing so well?
I always saw acting as a hobby, so I never expected to get jobs,
so when I did it was a nice surprise.
Yes, it always felt very possible that people could go on to be successful,
as in those days it was difficult to get into the acting world so
we seemed to have an advantage.
What are you doing with yourself these days?
When did you last watch Grange Hill?
I run my own pie shop.
Not since I've left to be honest!
Does it seem strange to you that Grange Hill is now made in
the North with an exclusively Northern cast, when in your day you
were the sole Northerner in a sea of Londoners?
I noticed you were on City Hospital a few years back with your
son who is autistic. Are you familiar with the story of Martin Miller
in Grange Hill, a pupil who has Asperger's Syndrome, and if so how
well do you think it was handled?
Yes it's bizarre, I can't quite get my head around that GH is now
a northern school!
No I didn't see that episode but I think its good that things like
that are brought into the public realm, as its a very common syndrome.
I also believe you are dyslexic; did this cause any problems
for you as an actress on Grange Hill and later in your career? You
probably know that Grange Hill itself had tackled the subject of
dyslexia back in 1979 (Simon Shaw) and how good a job do you think
they made of it?
The BBC has just announced the cancellation of Grange Hill after
exactly 30 years. Do you think it could have continued or did you
feel it was the right time to end it?
Luckily I can read very well so the scripts weren't a problem
to memorise, its just the just the spelling i struggle with. Again
I didn't see that episode as I was only 4 at the time, so my days
were filled with dolls' tea parties, also I didn't know I was dyslexic
at this time hahaha
I think GH's glory days were well and truly over, the BBC thought
they were flogging a dead horse, so it's no surprise to see they finally
Any final thoughts?
Never drink wine before beer.
© GH Online 2008. Our grateful thanks to Rebekah for sparing
the time to talk to us!