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Sir Phil Redmond calls on broadcasters to take on more gritty storylines

·3 min read

The creator of Brookside and Grange Hill has called on broadcasters to have the courage to take on more gritty storylines as he revealed he wrote a “spoof soap” called Corona-nation Street.

Sir Phil Redmond hinted at possible reboots of two of his popular shows as he criticised modern-day “comfortable, non-contentious” programming.

The soap supremo, who is also the man behind Hollyoaks, said he is “not a fan” of reality shows, describing them as “easy, copycat television”.

He said: “All that effort, intellectual energy and resource going on just another bunch of people, seeing how they’re going to react in a room. That’s all it is, isn’t it?”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Sir Philip Redmond is made a Knight Bachelor by the Princess Royal (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Sir Phil, who was knighted at Windsor Castle on Wednesday for services to broadcasting and arts in the regions, said he had written a pandemic-based soap, which would have “fantastic” storylines for the small screen.

He said: “I actually wrote a spoof soap to keep myself sane through the pandemic called Corona-nation Street, about what it would be like to have a programme on dealing with it day-to-day, live, and all those differences with people.

“And like the anti-vaxxing stories now. It’d be a fantastic story to have on-screen, you know – some neighbours pro, some neighbours anti, somebody working in the NHS.

“What a fantastic storyline to have running, being played out on our screens at the moment.”

He said a broadcaster like Channel 4 “should have been doing Corona-nation street”, adding: “Channel 4 should be commissioning regularly proper dramas that are tackling the proper issues around it all.”

He said the soaps are doing the job they are asked to do but that broadcasters are “not pushing them enough”, and argued they should be featuring storylines on issues like sexting, county lines drugs and the Levelling Up agenda.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Sir Philip Redmond and wife Alexis after he was made a Knight Bachelor (Steve Parsons/PA)

Sir Phil added: “They need to find the courage to meet the challenge, and to tackle the real social issues that are going on.”

As for reboots of Brookside and Grange Hill, he said he cannot confirm anything, but did say there are “conversations going on around both”.

“There needs to be something like a Brookside or a Grange Hill because we seem to have lost that,” he added.

“It’s almost as though contemporary drama has been no-platformed in television, drama that’s really difficult has dropped back into being single dramas.”

Born in Liverpool in 1949 as the son of a cleaner and a bus driver, he was educated at St Kevin’s RC School in Northwood, Kirkby, and later said he based his first ideas for Grange Hill on his time there.

The series about life in a London comprehensive school ran from 1978 to 2008 and made headlines for its gritty social realism, tackling issues such as racism, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, mental illness and HIV and Aids, and Sir Phil has previously said how he had wanted to move away from the “Enid Blyton, middle-class drama” that the BBC had previously been showing.

Sir Phil also lent that realism to Brookside, which ran from Channel 4’s launch night in 1982 until 2003.

He previously received a CBE in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to drama.

On being knighted, he said: “It’s been pleasing and it’s also very humbling.”

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