February 6, 2008 / 6:39 PM / 10 years ago

Gates to shut for last time at Grange Hill

LONDON (Reuters) - One of the longest-running and most popular British children’s TV shows, Grange Hill, has been axed after three decades, the BBC announced on Wednesday.

The gates will close for a final time at the fictitious London school -- which has been entertaining children all over the world -- later this year, the state broadcaster said.

The hard-hitting show, which broke new ground in its depiction of teen pregnancy, drug use and racism, was created in 1978 by Phil Redmond.

It made stars out of its actors -- many went on to establish prominent acting careers in soaps, stage shows and film.

But in recent times the show’s makers have been forced to comply with BBC policy that any afternoon programs must be suitable for young children, which Redmond criticized.

The head of the BBC’s children’s arm, Anne Gilchrist, said on Wednesday the show was being axed because it did not reflect modern British school life. She said the BBC had commissioned a new series to fill the void.

“Of course it’s sad to say goodbye to such a much-loved institution,” she said in a statement.

“The lives of children have changed a great deal since Grange Hill began and we owe it to our audience to reflect this.” She later told BBC television that 30 years was a “pretty good life-span” and it was time to say goodbye.

Her decision follows a highly critical interview that Redmond, also the show’s executive producer, gave to a Sunday newspaper last month, in which he urged the BBC to axe the show.

He blamed the corporation for robbing the show of its purpose.

“I do now think the point of Grange Hill has been lost, and 30 years is a nice time for it to hang up its mortar board,” he said.

Distraught fans bombarded the BBC Web site expressing their shock within hours of the announcement.

“This is scandalous,” wrote Susie Cuthbert, 28, from Birmingham. “I don’t know how I‘m going to cope without it. I’ve learned the lessons of life with those kids and passed on the message to my own kids. Please CHANGE YOUR MIND!!!!!!!!”

Reuters/Nielsen

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