Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Byker Grove (1989-2006)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Byker Grove (1989-2006)
Zenith North for BBC1/CBBC, tx. 8/11/1989-10/12/2006
344x25 min eps in 18 series, colour
Created byAdele Rose
 Andrea Wonfor
Writers includeAdele Rose
 Brian B. Thompson
ProducersHelen Gregory
 Morag Bain
 Edward Pugh
 Tim Holloway

Cast: Declan Donnelly (Duncan); Jill Halfpenny (Nicola); Lyndyann Barrass (Spuggie); Billy Fane (Geoff Keegan); Vicky Murray (Alison); Ant McPartlin (Peter 'PJ' Jenkins); Brett Adams (Noddy); Donna Air (Charlie); George Trotter (Gary); Kerry-Ann Christensen (Flora); Gayna Millican (Kylie)

Show full cast and credits

The goings-on at a youth club in Newcastle's Byker district.

Show full synopsis

Putting Tyneside - and Geordie accents - on the kids' TV map, Byker Grove was the result of producer Andrea Wonfor's search for North East-based series for new indie company Zenith North. To write the six-week pilot run, Wonfor turned to Adele Rose, a scriptwriter of Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-) since 1961 whose childen's play 'The Venchie' (tx. 26/9/83) - about a Newcastle adventure playground threatened with closure - Wonfor, then at Tyne Tees, had commissioned for Dramarama (ITV, 1983-89).

The pilot serial saw home counties teenager Julie coming to Newcastle and escaping parental break-up issues at Byker Grove, a youth club run by the extravagantly moustached, no-nonsense Geoff Keegan. The Grove was something of a surrogate family for waifs and strays, several of whose members are fostered by 'Aunty' Lou Gallagher. Viewers quickly took to the large cast of characters, while the series' earthy Northern frankness made it fresh and dangerous. Pithily tackling racism and adolescent sexuality, it was an instant hit and a longer twice-weekly series resulted.

For the second series, diminutive cheeky chappy Duncan teamed with new character PJ, and the duo playing them, Ant and Dec, became Byker's biggest stars. Happy-go-lucky PJ - Peter Jenkins, presumably acknowledging Grange Hill's (BBC, 1978-2008) Peter 'Tucker' Jenkins - became a villain when he sleazily employed the same candelit seduction technique on two girls. A scene of PJ buying condoms elicited parental complaints.

This plot ended tragically, with PJ accidentally blinded in a paintball fight. This moral stance, stressing the consequences of actions, was a feature of the series: loudmouth Gillespie was killed joyriding, while Greg Watson was left in a wheelchair after a fall while evading arrest. Perhaps saddest of all was Amanda Bewick's descent into drug addiction, overdose and teenage pregnancy, before being forced to give up her baby for adoption as an unfit mother.

For all the humour and pop music, the show will be remembered for hard-hitting storylines. Noddy's gay kiss on startled friend Gary caused a storm, as did teenager Leanne's baby and Kylie's self-harming compulsions. Other tragedies included Flora's death from a cancerous brain tumour. The death of Grove leader Geoff in 2000 in an oxygen gas explosion marked the end of an era.

Byker Grove fell victim to a new Children's BBC edict that programmes were now to be aimed at the under-elevens, and a slick but lightweight final run aired in 2006 on the digital CBBC channel only.

Alistair McGown

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Sense of foreboding (1:58)
2. Paintball accident (2:13)
Complete 1992 episode (24:11)
Grange Hill (1978-2008)
Storm Damage (2000)
Children's TV Drama