Television nostalgia

Two recent additions to ‘Education in Literature Collection’ are DVDs of contrasting British children’s television series about school children.

Between 1978 and 2008 the BBC’s television show Grange Hill kept children entertained. At its height the programme was regarded as being unmissable viewing. Whilst primarily entertainment the programme did cover some major issues including bullying, rape, Asperger’s syndrome,dyslexia, knife crime and attempted suicide. On the positive side there was a deaf character in 1985 and Rebecca-Anne Withey became the first deaf cast member in 2005. Between 1992 and 1999 Alan Ray played art teacher Mr Brisley who happened to be gay.

Grange Hill

One memorable ‘issue’ storyline featured the popular character Zammo McGuire and his addiction to heroin. His descent into addiction and the strain it placed on his relationships with his friend Kevin and his girlfriend Jacquie was portrayed during two series, 1986-87. ‘Grange Hill- the album’ was recorded by the cast in 1986 with the track ‘Just Say No’ (to tie-in with Zammo’s addiction) being released as a single.

In the 1980s when the show was at the height of its popularity 8 annuals and 14 short story books and novels were published. The show’s creator, Phil Redmond, was responsible for the majority of the fiction. Other books were written by renown children’s authors Jan Needle and Robert Leeson.

Over the years the show was produced at three different locations, BBC Television Centre, Elstree and finally Liverpool after the production of the series was taken over by Phil Redmond’s company ‘Mersey TV’. From the beginning real schools were used for some of the outside shots including Kingsbury High School in North London which I was familiar with having attended another school in the London Borough of Brent.

Educating Marmalade was a light hearted series featuring the antics of ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the World’ portrayed by Charlotte Coleman. Marmalade has been expelled from every school she has been sent to and her parents are in despair. Every episode sees Marmalade being sent to a new educational or correctional establishment. These range from Eton to the Convent of the Blessed Limit and even Dartmoor. Marmalade wreaks havoc at each one and is soon on her way home again to the despair of her parents, social worker, Miss Allgood and the child psychologist Dr Glenfiddick.


Marmalade may be naughty but her antics are rather innocent- no drugs or drinking or serious criminal activity.

John Bird and Lynda Marchal play her parents. The latter being better known as the author Lynda La Plante. I also spotted Joan Sims, Tony Osoba, Kathy Burke, Julia Sawalha, Lynda Bellingham, Brian Glover  and Patrick Malahide in the cast. Perhaps the scariest image was not that of Marmalade with her scruffy clothes and unruly hair but that of Brian Glover as Sister Conception.

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