The place: The iconic Elstree studios
When: A comfortably warm Mid-September weekend
The cause: The Good Grief Trust
Register and assembly
There was quite a queue of hardcore GH fans outside the studios – many of them dressed in true old-school style (‘Just say No’ t-shirts, full on GH uniforms, a gentleman wearing a Gripper Stebson t-shirt and many others sporting retro clothing). I call myself (and my business) Nostalgic Geek(s) but one chap pointed out that everyone at the event was in fact a Nostalgic Geek! I nodded my head in approval (hopefully the terminology won’t offend anyone reading this blog – be reassured, being a nostalgic geek is pretty groovy).
The conversations in the queue was what you’d expect from a group of GH fans – ‘Who’ll be here? Is Todd Carty coming? I wonder what the school dinner will be like?’
Like a rapid game of Snap, nostalgic topics began flowing during the queue discussion …
‘Why don’t we ever see white poo on the streets anymore?’
‘Remember going into the sweet shop and asking for ‘a quarter of sweets’? We didn’t know what ‘a quarter’ meant but we knew what it looked like!’
The topic of ‘THAT’ smell from the school canteen came up as we reminisced about the culinary delights of school dinners (sausages containing at least 45% gristle, grey and lumpy mash potato, vegetables that were over-cooked by about an hour all slapped onto a plate – a ladle of gravy providing the finishing touch – Bon appetit!)
As we entered the studio, the sound of the ‘On my radio’ by the Selecter pumped out of the speakers. The room was covered with GH posters and memorabilia – we had arrived!
The Good Grief Trust
So we’d forked out for this event and all the proceeds raised was going to The Good Grief Trust. The trust works towards bringing all bereavement support organisations under one umbrella – this enables the bereaved to find help and support quickly. The fact is all of us will be affected by bereavement during our lives. On a personal note, I wish I knew about the services available when family members passed away. It’s good to know that The Good Grief Trust are here to help anyone going through an emotionally challenging time. The Good Grief Trust is a fantastic, worthwhile trust.
Session 2: Friends reunited – a lesson on humility and amazing personal connections
There’s something special about GH. We all have our favourite characters, episodes and scenes (One of my faves is Fleur Taylor playing the role of Imelda Davis, stuffing fibreglass down another pupils back – crewl! Luckily her hands were free from skin-scratching material during this event) but what struck me about the day was there were no egos – we all seemed like friends who’d not seen each other for a while. The GH cast were just lovable, approachable and incredibly humble. Alison Bettles (who played Fay Lucas) told the attendees that she was surprised that anyone would want to come and see the cast – she was totally blown away by the amount of people that attended. Erkan Mustafa (who played Roland Browning) reiterated that the day was not about the cast, but about the fans – humility in action displayed by all the members of cast.
There was an amazing connection in the room. I’ve never met George Armstrong (Alan Humphries) prior to this event but I was with him when he hung out with Tucker during the Grange Hill years. I’d even walked with him during the time of high umemployment during the Tucker’s Luck days. I, like many other fans, could really connect with the characters. The connection was no more clearer at the mentions and tributes for Terry Sue-Patt (Benny Green). At every mention and tribute to Terry, I felt a deep sense of sorrow and sadness – many that attended this fantastic event was with Benny when he first walked into Grange Hill without school uniform in 1978.
Before lunch – attention to detail
Just because the cast were busy learning scripts and acting out fantastic storylines, they still had to squeeze in some proper education – they received three hours tutoring every day. They even had a chaperone, the lovely Grace. I had the privilege of meeting the 94-years young Grace just before lunch – a delightfully funny and humble lady. I got the feeling she kept the cast in line as I detected a no-nonsense vibe during our chat.
I’m sure there were mixed feelings when mentioned that we’d be provided with a school dinner. Whilst talking to some of the nostalgic geeks whilst queuing to enter the event, I told them about my torturous situation at primary school. Because I lived two minutes away from school and my mum worked part-time, I had the privilege of having lunch at home for the majority of seven years I spent at Harlesden Primary. There were times when mum was not able to provide a delicious hot meal at lunchtime due to changing shifts at work so school dinners stepped-in. The shift from home cooking to school dinners was like moving from a place a freedom to a torture camp – the nauseous aroma followed by dinner being slapped on the plate by serious looking dinner ladies in a no-nonsense stylee is an experience I’ll never forget. I was the child who’d sit staring at the plate whilst shifting the food around with my fork and once in a while hesitantly putting a morsel into my mouth – I was terrified to let any trickle down my oesophagus!
Was the GH 40th school dinner any better than the ones slapped on a plate during the 70s and 80s? Flipping heck it was a huge improvement! Sausages, mash, beans and gravy was on menu – the sausages were cooked to perfection and free from jaw-aching gristle – lump-free mash, tasty beans and gravy at the correct viscosity. I polished-off the pudding of cake and custard too!
The verdict: A massive fail! Far too good to be a traditional school dinner. Where was the mean-looking dinner lady keeping a watchful eye out for anyone not finishing off their dinner? Fail!
Final session, wrap-up and home time
The final session flew – there were more on-stage interviews, autographs, a raffle, lots more photographs and tucking into a slice of amazing cake.
It was a day of fun, laughs and friendships. I can imagine that many of us that attended had the GH theme tune spinning round and round in our heads and even humming it whilst leaving the iconic studios. We look forward with excitement to the Grange Hill 50th.
Grange Hill is featured in the new hardback book, Section N Underpass – a nostalgic and fun look back at British advertising, leisure and entertainment from the 70s and 80s. Click front cover below and get the rundown: