With its wonderful theme song (“Byker… GROVE!”) and its stories centered around a youth club far more hectic than any you or I have ever attended, it’s no wonder this show is so fondly remembered. Often the conversation on the school playground the next day, you can remember that it used to be 5:10 pm after Newsround.
Set in the Byker district of Newcastle, the series was basically a Geordie Grange Hill, never shying away from tackling controversial topics like teen pregnancy, homophobia, abortion and drug addiction. With gritty realism and a refreshingly honest depiction of teenage life, the series was a huge hit during its long run, from 1989 to 2006.
The show is perhaps best known for spawning the careers of Ant & Dec, who played PJ and Duncan. But there were also many other notable success stories from the show.
READ MORE: Where the cast of Grange Hill is now: From homeless people to a casino boss to tragic young deaths
So, without further ado, let’s find out what happened to the cast members? All together now: “Let’s get readyyyyyyy to wallow…”.
Ant and December – PJ and Duncan
Let’s start with the big guns: Ant & Dec. Now primetime TV hosts of giant shows like ITV’s I’m A Celebrity and, of course, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, it’s easy to lose sight of how it started. all for this. bubbly duo.
They shared a unique bond as PJ and Duncan, and who could forget the shocking scene where Ant’s character went blind in a game of paintball? More of that later…
Just like in the ’90s, if you were on a TV show and people liked you, then a record deal was never far away. Cue the songs Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble, U Krazy Katz and Eternal Love, to name just a few. Ant & Dec went on to host SM kids’ shows: TV Live, Pop Idol… and well, the rest is history.
Donna Air – Charlie Charlton
Just ten years old when she began attending the Byker Grove youth club, Donna later left to pursue a pop career with the duo Crush, who are not particularly remembered. They had a song called Jellyhead. You remember? No? Ok… What about Luv’d Up? Do we move on?
After a stint hosting hugely successful shows like TFI Friday and The Big Breakfast, Donna made a triumphant return to acting, appearing in the Hollywood blockbuster The Mummy Returns, as well as the top-rated shows Hollyoaks and Hotel Babylon. . She also dated the Duchess of Cambridge’s brother, James Middleton. Most recently, Donna has been on ITV’s celebrity pool-dive show Splash and competed on Dancing On Ice. She also had a leading role in the British legal drama The Split in 2020.
Jill Halfpenny – Nicola Dobson
It was all about those 90s hair bows for a very young Jill Halfpenny during her time at the Grove. Ella’s character Nicola de Ella was very popular before PJ and Duncan, and the actress sensibly capitalized on this success when she left the series. She played Rebecca Hopkins on Coronation Street and landed the role of Phil Mitchell’s long-suffering partner Kate on EastEnders in 2002.
Jill won the second series of Strictly in 2004 and has since enjoyed roles in the teaching drama Waterloo Road, the ITV drama Wild At Heart and the most recent sci-fi hit Humans. In addition to hitting the boards in Chicago’s West End, Jill appeared in Death In Paradise in 2016 and starred in the four-part thriller The Drowning last year.
Billy Fane – Geoff
Ah, mustachioed youth club leader Geoff, a true cornerstone of the show before he was unceremoniously killed in a gas explosion in 2000. A quiet, worldly character, Geoff’s voice of reason stood out a mile out in the field. in the often frantic series. The Billy actor went on to appear in Billy Elliott before returning to stand-up comedy.
In 2006, Billy earned a master’s degree in special needs education and went on to teach inmates throughout the North. Billy has also appeared in many pantos and appeared on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in 2014 and The Last Leg in 2020.
Andrew Hayden-Smith-Ben Carter
Ben was one of the longest running characters on the series, until he was run over and fatally injured on the Quayside in 2003. After being expelled from the Grove, Andrew enjoyed a successful career as a television presenter, co-hosting several CBBCs. he shows up alongside the likes of Konnie Huq, who joins Blue-Peter, and then big-name sportscaster Jake Humphrey.
He decided to return to acting in 2006 with a stint on Doctor Who, where he played a resistance fighter against the Cybermen. Hayden-Smith later reunited with Who writer Russell T Davies for the Channel 4 dramas Banana and Cucumber. Andrew is now a regular continuity broadcaster on both ITV and ITV2. In 2016, he joined the cast of Hollyoaks as DS police officer Gavin Armstrong.
Charlie, one of the biggest stars who got his start at The Grove, landed his big role while “fooling around drunk in a shoe store.” After leaving Byker, he joined (here’s that man again!) Russell T Davies in the groundbreaking drama Queer As Folk, where he received rave reviews for his portrayal of 15-year-old Nathan Maloney. He has since gone on to play biker Jax in Sons of Anarchy and also landed the lead role of a certain Christian Gray in the notoriously cheeky Fifty Shades Of Grey, but dropped out. Maybe he was too spicy?
Charlie has also enjoyed roles in some major Hollywood films such as Pacific Rim and Children of Men, with Clive Owen, as well as Guy Ritchie’s Knights of the Roundtable. He later appeared in the prison film remake Papillon in 2018 as well as the US drama Jungleland a year later and has a lead role opposite Mel Gibson in the current mystery thriller Last Looks.
Chelsea Halfpenny – Lucy Summerbee
Jill’s niece, Chelsea continued to act on both stage and screen before turning to soap operas in 2010. She played teenage runaway Amy Wyatt on Emmerdale for three years and also enjoyed eight episodes on the medical drama Casualty. Chelsea formed the girl group Vivo in 2009, teaming up with former Emmerdale co-star Charlie Hardwick, who also starred in Byker Grove, funnily enough. In 2018 she appeared in the short film Cry Baby Blue and in 2020 she narrated ten episodes of Night Force detailing all those important and anonymous roles that keep Britain going until the wee hours of the morning.
Françoise Boufhal – Ellie Baines
Soon acquired by a glamor modeling agency, by the late 2000s Francoise had been featured in boys’ magazines FHM, Zoo, Nuts and Maxim, and was also popular in the Daily Star. Francoise joined the former England footballer and Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand, as co-presenter of the television expert’s #5 digital magazine in 2009.
He then moved to Los Angeles and appeared in several YouTube videos, including tips on “how to hug a girl and get out of the friend zone.” Boufhal is also Maxim UK’s weekly “men’s adviser” online.
Nicola Bell-Debbie Dobson
Debbie’s character will always be remembered for the unfortunate incident when she blinded the poor PC in Byker. She was truly the talk of the schoolyard the next day, with many unable to fathom how such a fate could befall such a beloved character.
After Grove, actress Nicola took to the skies in a new career as a flight attendant for Virgin Atlantic. Lately, Nicola has carved out a successful career as a make-up artist.
Lyndyann Barrass – Spuggie
The sassy Spuggie is etched in the brains of every Byker fan. A hugely memorable character, actress Lyndyann was forced to take a break from her acting career after she was attacked by bullies when she was 24 years old.
Three cowardly strangers beat her unconscious and recognized her as Spuggie. Lyndyann has appeared in various theater shows across the country and keeps busy as a mother of two as well as working part time in a call center in Sunderland.
Holly Matthews – Emma Miller
Remember Holly’s pop alter ego, Summer Matthews, scoring a #32 hit with Little Miss Perfect in 2004? That was the beginning and the end of her foray into the charts, but not a bad effort, huh?
He later decided to have a pop at acting again, landing roles in Waterloo Road, as well as Doctors and Casualty. Aside from acting, Holly works as a personal development coach and even launched her own online course in 2016. Holly blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and writes content for Channel Mum online.