Byker Grove

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Byker Grove
GenreTeen drama
Created byAdele Rose
Andrea Wonfor
Developed byBBC
Zenith Entertainment
Directed byVarious
Theme music composerKane Gang
Simon Etchell
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series18
No. of episodes344
Executive producersAndrea Wonfor (1989–90)
Ian Squires (1990–92)
Ivan Rendall (1992–95)
Matthew Robinson (1995–97)
ProducersMatthew Robinson (1989–95)
Helen Gregory (1995–97)
Stephen McAteer (1997–99)
Morag Bain (1999–01)
Edward Pugh (2002–05)
Tim Holloway (2006)
Production locationNewcastle upon Tyne
Running time25 minutes
Original networkBBC One (1989–2006)
Picture format4:3 (1989–2000)
16:9 (2000–2006)
Original release8 November 1989 (1989-11-08) –
10 December 2006 (2006-12-10)

Byker Grove is a British teen drama and coming of age television series which aired between 1989 and 2006 as part of CBBC on BBC One. Set and filmed in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, it was created by writer Adele Rose and executive producer Andrea Wonfor. The show was broadcast at 5:10pm after Newsround (later moved to 5pm). It was aimed at an older teenager and young adult audience, tackling serious and sometimes controversial storylines. The show is notable for depicting the first gay kiss on children’s television, as well as its breach of the fourth wall in the final series.


The show ran between 1989 and 2006, and was set in a youth club in the Byker district of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. In 1987, Wonfor approached soap writer Adele Rose. Together they created a single pilot episode featuring children aged 8–11 at an out-of-school club (transmitted on BBC in 1988). In autumn 1988, Wonfor gained the backing of Anna Home, then Head of the Children's Department at BBC Television. Home gave the go ahead for a run of a series of six 25-minute episodes to be broadcast by the BBC. The age of the main characters was raised to 12–16 after support from first producer-director, Matthew Robinson. The first series centred on young teenagers crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood.


The Mitre, also known as Benwell Towers, acted as the production offices and the fictional youth club.

Byker Grove was not filmed in the Byker area of Newcastle. The actual youth club set was in Benwell, which is in the west area of the city, Byker being in the east. Byker Metro station (the suburban rail network in Newcastle and the Tyne and Wear area) and other landmarks in the real Byker (such as the Byker Wall and surrounding estate) were used for filming backdrops.

The youth club building seen on-screen is The Mitre, which used to be a nightclub and a pub (which was mentioned in a few storylines from episodes in the late 1990s).[1] After the success of the first series (6 episodes, 1989), The Mitre was bought by the BBC's London property department, which then granted Zenith Television a permanent licence to film the series there.

Scenes representing Denwell Burn Youth Club for Series 15 were filmed at Raby Street Youth Club, in the buildings next to Byker Primary School. This is the real youth club for the children of Byker.

The final series started on 7 October 2006 on the CBBC Channel. Richard Deverell, head of CBBC, was interviewed on Newsround about the decision to axe Byker Grove.[2]


Byker Grove launched the careers of Anthony McPartlin ("P.J.") and Declan Donnelly ("Duncan"), who are otherwise known as Ant & Dec, as well as the actress Jill Halfpenny,[3] Donna Air, former CBBC presenter Andrew Hayden-Smith and Emmerdale actors Dale Meeks, Charlie Hardwick, Chelsea Halfpenny, Laura Norton and Victoria Hawkins. Also appearing in the series was the now glamour model Francoise Boufhal ("Ellie Baines") and Charlie Hunnam, who later starred in the American TV series Sons of Anarchy and co-starred in Pacific Rim (2013).

The cast and crew from the first 10 years of the show held their first reunion on 19 May 2012 in the Quayside area of Newcastle upon Tyne and on a river boat cruise. The party guests included Ant and Dec, Donna Air, Charlie Hardwick and Andrew Hayden-Smith.

Production team[edit]

The founder producer/director (1989–95) was Matthew Robinson. After being promoted to become executive producer of Byker Grove for two years (1995–97), he became executive producer of EastEnders, then Head of Drama for BBC Wales, and now runs Khmer Mekong Films in Cambodia. Byker Grove was also home to writers such as Catherine Johnson (who went on to pen Mamma Mia!, the ABBA musical) and Matthew Graham (This Life, Doctor Who and co-creator of BBC One's Life on Mars). The first writer was Adele Rose–in Series 1 she wrote episodes 1–4 and 6; her daughter, Carrie Rose, wrote episode 5. The most prolific writer was Brian B. Thompson, who wrote 50 episodes over 12 series. Byker Grove gave Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper his first break into TV drama when he directed four episodes in 1997.[4]


Byker Grove was not intended for young children, but aimed at a young adult and teenage audience, as it tackled controversial subjects such as drug addiction, child abuse, homelessness, teen pregnancy, homophobia, and abortion. Although some of the action took place outside the youth club, the series was unusual among dramas in that the characters were rarely shown in school. One of the major settings was the foster home run by the kindly but strict Lou Gallagher, the longest-running character.

In November 1994, Byker Grove featured the first gay kiss on UK children's television.[5] It broached the subject of "coming out" when Noddy Fishwick kissed his close friend Gary Hendrix at the back of a cinema. This scene caused outrage in the British tabloids and calls for producer Matthew Robinson to be sacked.[5] However, the BBC strongly backed the storyline, which received countrywide support from gay teenagers, many teachers, and parents.[3] The 2004 series saw the character of Bradley agonising over his sexuality and eventually coming out as gay to his girlfriend Sadie, after a romantic holiday together had failed to live up to their expectations.

The series frequently depicted life as unjust, with bad things happening to good people, such as Flora's death from a brain tumour, Greg's fall from the roof of the Grove which left him paralysed from the waist down, Jemma Dobson being electrocuted by a faulty electricity mains socket and youth leader Geoff Keegan's death in an accidental gas explosion after 11 years on the show.[3]

Byker Grove frequently confronted viewers with repercussions for the characters' actions, often permanent. These ranged from the comical to the tragic; characters who stole and joy-rode cars often died in them, starting with Gill, and ultimately Craig running over Ben Carter. P.J. was blinded during an illicit and unsupervised paintballing session, in which he ignored warnings and removed his face guard, in a scene filmed on location at Aydon Castle near Corbridge.

The central storyline of the first three series was the character of London teenager Julie Warner (Lucy Walsh) struggling to fit in and adjust to life in working class Newcastle and her relationship with the rebellious Martin "Gill" Gillespie. In the show's final episode the characters discover that they do not exist and are the creation of unseen characters known as "The Writers" who plan to conclude the show by demolishing the Grove. However numerous present and former Grove members buy enough time for the characters to re-write the ending so that the club will remain open forever, but ultimately fail to stop it being demolished.[6]

Until Series 10 (1998) the rival youth club was known as Denton Burn. In Series 13 (2001) rival youth club members were known as the Denwell Burners as they were from a youth club in Denwell Burn. This is a fictitious area of Newcastle upon Tyne, the name coming from a mixture of Benwell and Denton Burn.

The bands of Byker Grove[edit]

A number of musical acts have been spun off from the series. These include:

  • Michelle Charles (under the guise of Charley, which was her character name) – "The Best Thing", "For the Good Times"
  • PJ & Duncan — who became Ant & Dec for The Cult of... album (Singles include "Let's Get Ready to Rhumble", "Better Watch Out", "We're On The Ball")
  • Byker Grooove – girl band starring Donna Air ('Charlie'), Jayni Hoy ('Leah') and Vicky Taylor ('Angel') whose single "Love Your Sexy...!!" reached No. 48 on the UK Singles Chart in December 1994. Byker Grooove evolved into the duo Crush with Jayni Hoy and Donna Air. (Singles included "Jellyhead" (UK No. 50) and "Luv'd Up" (UK No. 45) on Telstar Records.)[7] In the United States, where Byker Grove did not air and nor was the Crush duo promoted as being associated with the series, "Jellyhead" reached No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1996.[8] The song "Jellyhead" also charted in Australia from early February 1997, peaking at No. 32 in early April 1997, spending 23 weeks within the ARIA Top 100 Singles chart, 13 of which were in the Top 50.
  • Summer Matthews – aka Emma Miller (Single: "Little Miss Perfect")
  • Point Break, boyband featuring Brett Adams ('Noddy') and David Oliver ('Marcus'). (Singles include "Do We Rock", "Stand Tough", and "Freakytime" on Eternal Records.)

Other bands connected to Byker Grove include:

List of characters in Byker Grove[edit]

Grove staff[edit]

There have been several youth leaders working at the Grove over the years. The following is a list of all the ones shown on-screen.

Character Actor Duration Role
Geoff Keegan Billy Fane 1989–2000 Youth leader
Akili Johnson Patrick Miller 2000–2006
Alison Fletcher Vicky Murray 1989–1996 Assistant Youth Leader
Sian Charlie Hardwick 1996–1999, 2000
Tina Meredith Lynne Wilmot 2000–2002
Dom Meredith Daymon Britton 2002–2006
Cher Coates Jody Baldwin 2003
Chrissie Harrison Sarah Lawton 2003–2006
Mary O'Malley Lyn Douglas 1989–1991 Other staff
Rajeev Patel Daniel Larson 1989
Steve "Brad" Bradley Michael Nicholson 1989–1991, 1995
Gwen Linda Huntley 1990
Dexter Dutton Gavin Kitchen 1990–1992
Lloyd Graham Overton 1991–1992

Grove members[edit]

This is a list of characters who appeared in the show as members of the Grove from 1989 to 2006. (When surname is not listed, it is either unknown, or was never mentioned in the show)

Character Actor Duration
Donna Bell Sally McQuillan 1989–91 (3 series)
Fraser Campbell John Jefferson 1989–92 (4 series)
Kirsty "Spuggie" Campbell Lyndyann Barrass 1989–92 (4 series)
Speedy Clark Stephen Bradley 1989–92 (4 series)
Nicola Dobson Jill Halfpenny 1989–92 (4 series)
Martin "Gill" Gillespie Caspar Berry 1989–90 (2 series)
Winston Hardy Craig Reilly 1989–92 (4 series)
Kelly Louise Towers 1989–91 (3 series)
Hayley Oduru Amanda Webster 1989–90 (2 series)
Andrew "Cas" Pearson Niall Shearer 1989–90 (2 series)
Duncan Sperring Declan Donnelly 1989–93; 1994; 2000 (returned for Geoff's funeral)
Julie Warner Lucy Walsh 1989–91 (3 series)
Ian Webster Craig Grieveson 1989–90 (2 series)
Carl Peter Eke 1990–91 (2 series)
Marilyn "Charley" Charlton Michelle Charles 1990–92 (3 series)
Debbie Dobson Nicola Bell 1990–94; cameo 1995
Jemma Dobson Nicola Ewart 1990–94 (5 series)
Joanne Gallagher Michelle Warden 1990–92 (3 series)
Greg Dale Meeks 1990–94 (appeared sporadically in the series)
Peter "PJ" Jenkins Anthony McPartlin 1990–93; 2000 (returned for Geoff's funeral)
Jan Peterson Marten Lind 1990 (1 series)
Robert Christopher Hardy 1990–91 (2 series)
Paul Skerrett Joe Caffrey 1990–92 (3 series)
Tessa Awe Olive Simbo 1991–92 (2 series)
Marcus Bewick David Oliver 1991–93 (3 series)
Amanda Bewick Gemma Graham 1991–95 (5 series)
Danny Dimmoro Steven Fox 1991 (1 series)
"Noddy" Fishwick Brett Adams 1991–95 (5 series)
Angel O'Hagan Vicky Taylor 1991–96; 2000 (returned for Geoff's funeral)
Bill Paul Scott Paul 1991–92 (2 series)
Lee Ratcliffe Rory Gibson 1991–94 (4 series)
Chrissy Van Der Berg Lyndsey Todd 1991–92; 1995 (cameo)
Leah Carmichael Jayni Hoy 1992–95 (4 series)
"Charlie" Charlton Donna Air 1992–95 (4 series)
"Morph" Evans Tracy Dempster 1992–93 (2 series)
Barney Hardy Stephen Carr 1992–96 (5 series)
Teraise O'Hagan Adele Taylor 1992–2001; 2003
Patsy Rowan Justine McKenzie 1992–95 (4 series)
Frew Luke Dale 1992–96 (5 series)
Ed Caseley Grant Adams 1993–97 (5 series)
Kolton Evans Stevie Lee Patterson 1993–94
Fran Emma Louise Webb 1993
Marie Hallovan Louise Mostyn 1993–96 (4 series)
Gary Hendrix George Trotter 1993–96 (4 series)
Arran Hope Neil Blackstone 1993–96 (4 series)
Flora McKay Kerryann Christiansen 1993–97 (5 series)
Brigid O'Hagan Joanne McIntosh 1993–98; 2000 (returned for Geoff's funeral)
Dale Puttifoot Leslie Baines 1993–95 (3 series)
Alfie Turnbull Andrew Smith 1993–97 (5 series)
Anna Turnbull Claire Graham 1994–97 (5 series)
Terry Carter Chris Woodger 1994–98; 2000; 2001; 2003
Karen Thrubb Kimberly Dunbar 1994–2000 (7 series)
Laura Dobson Emma Brierly 1995 (1 series)
Sita Rabi Gauri Vedhara 1995–2000 (6 series)
Jack Edward Scott 1995–99 (5 series)
Cher Coates Jody Baldwin 1996–2000; 2003
Harry Leah Jones 1996–2000 (5 series)
Mat Sajid Varda 1996 (1 series)
Ben Carter Andrew Hayden-Smith 1996–2003 (8 series)
Philip Philip Miller 1996–97 (2 series)
Rob Gavin Makel 1996–99 (4 series)
Nat Guinane Alexa Gibb 1997–2001 (5 series)
Ollie Guinane Louis Watson 1997–2001 (5 series)
Emma Miller Holly Matthews 1997–2003 (7 series)
Jesus Oz Reth 1997–2000 (4 series)
Leanne Vikki Spensley 1997 (1 series)
Barry Steven Douglas 1998–2000 (3 series)
Jake Nick Figgis 1998–99 (2 series)
Laura McLaughlin Louise Henderson 1998–2000; 2003
Regina O'Hagan Jade Turnbull 1998–2003; 2005
Greg Watson Gary Crawford 1998–2003 (6 series)
Nikki Watson Siobhan Hanratty 1998–2002 (5 series)
Bradley Clayton Nic Nancarrow 1999–2005 (7 series)
"Stumpy" McLaughlin Paul Meynell 1999–2006*
Liam Pete Hepple 1999–2001 (3 series)
Matt Adam Henderson-Scott 1999–2003 (5 series)
Bill Dakin Adam Ironside 2000–05 (6 series)
Joe Dakin Chris Beattie 2000–02 (3 series)
Paul Johnson Patrice Etienne 2000–03 (4 series)
Eve Johnson Rory Lewis 2000–06*
Claire Rivers Victoria Hawkins 2000–03 (4 series)
Adam Brett Alex Beebe 2001–05 (5 series)
Luke Brett Dominic Beebe 2001–05 (5 series)
Jodie Sophie Blench 2001–02 (2 series)
Leanne Henderson Rachael Lee 2001–04 (4 series)
Stella Reece Emma Littlewood 2001–03 (3 series)
Sarah Young Sammy T Dobson 2001–05 (5 series)
Robert Hunter Tom Graham 2002–06*
Beth McGregor Jennifer Wilson 2002-03
Jamie Parker Matthew Edgar 2002–06*
Anjali Rishan Nisha Joshi 2002–04 (3 series)
Hayley Robinson Heather Garrett 2002–06*
Mukasa Simon Yugire 2002 (1 series)
Kate Best Alex Gardner 2003–06*
Sadie Fox Bridie Hales 2003–05 (3 series)
Spencer Murray Leon Scott 2003–04 (2 series)
Mickey Murray Daniel Waterston 2003–06*
Lucy Summerbee Chelsea Halfpenny 2003–06*
Binnie Jonny Ferguson 2003–06*
Flip Ian Daniell 2003 (1 series)
Ben Brett Adam Hopper/Luke Hopper 2004 (1 series)
Scott Jackson Matthew Forster 2004–05 (2 series)
Zoe McCormack Hannah Clementson 2004–06*
Kevin McLaughlin Joe McCabe 2004–06*
Andrew "Spud" Tate Jamie Tulip 2004–06*
Kylie Wylie Gayna Millican 2004–06*
Danielle Blake Chloe Stanley 2005–06*
Candice Marie Harper Kate Heslop 2005–06*
Jessica Jones Julianne Johnson 2005–06*
Charlotte Murray Altea Claveras 2005–06*
"Gadget" Tilbrook Daniel Watson 2005–06*
Madelaine Watts Anna Udall 2005 (1 series)
David Oliver walker 2005 (1 series)
Nathan Adam Gibb 2005 (1 series)
Vicky Jo McGarry 2005 (1 series)
Jason Mason Scott Turnbull 2006*
Toni Armitage Hazel Pude 2006*
Jake Armitage Cahyle Smith 2006*

* Indicates character was still in the show when it finished.

+ In the books that accompanied the series, Duncan's surname was listed as MacDonald until 1992, despite it being stated in the show in his 1st appearance (Series 1, Episode 3) that it is Sperring.


Although most of the action took place in the Grove, several characters' home lives and families were also shown. Some families remained in the show for many years. The house next door to the Grove was home to the Dobson family (1990–93) followed by the Turnbulls (1993–97) and then the Watsons (1998–2000). Other long-running families included the O'Hagans, the Carters and the various children at Lou Gallagher's foster home.

Character Actor Children Duration
Michael Warner Gordon Griffin Julie 1989–90 (2 series)
Clare Warner Jenny Twigge 1989–90 (2 series)
Jim Bell Colin MacLaughlan Donna 1989–91 (3 series)
Lisa Harris Jayne MacKenzie 1989–91 (3 series)
Polly Bell Denise Welch 1990–91 (2 series)
Alan Dobson Tony Hodge Nicola, Debbie and Jemma 1990–94 (5 series)
Kath Dobson Lesley St John 1990–94 (5 series)
Lou Gallagher Anne Orwin Foster mother to various characters 1990–2006 (17 series)
Jack Hardy Alan Renwick Winston and Barney 1990, 1992–93, 1995 (4 series)
Gerry O'Hagan Terry Joyce Angel, Brigid, Teraise (and others not shown on screen) 1993–2001 (9 series)
Maeve O'Hagan Patricia Maria Dunn 1993–95 (3 series)
Peter Turnbull Gez Casey Alfie, Anna and Flora 1993–97 (5 series)
Jean McKay Patricia Jones 1993–97 (5 series)
Tony McKay John Rogers Flora 1994–97 (4 series)
Gloria Caseley Libby Davidson Ed 1995–96 (2 series)
Carl Carter John Bogeer(1996) David Tarkenter(2003) Terry, Ben and Stella 1996 , 2003

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Riddell, Kathryn (1 August 2016). "Vandals target Newcastle's Byker Grove setting where Islamic school is due to open". Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  2. ^ Newsround. (13 May 2006). Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Duke, Simon (20 October 2014). "Byker Grove: Five memorable moments from the hit Newcastle TV series".
  4. ^ Thomson, David (2014). The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Sixth ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-3491-4111-4.
  5. ^ a b Francesca Williams; Murphy Cobbing (7 November 2014). "Byker Grove: When Ant and Dec were PJ and Duncan". BBC News.
  6. ^ "Great Moments in Pop Culture – Byker Grove Nukes the Fourth Wall". Frantic Planet dot blog. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 128. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 for week of December 21, 1996". Billboard. Retrieved 7 June 2019.

External links[edit]