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Liverpool Icons: From Huyton to Hollyoaks, how Phil Redmond’s creativity helped shape today’s TV, and the city we call home

1 year ago

Liverpool Icons: From Huyton to Hollyoaks, how Phil Redmond’s creativity helped shape today’s TV, and the city we call home
Credit: PA/BBC Handout

Phil Redmond is the creator of Brookside, Hollyoaks and Grange Hill

Death by parachute, a teenager’s descent into heroin addiction, a body under the patio and a lesbian kiss. 

If you’re a soap fan, you’ll recognise that this isn’t a synopsis for Tarantino’s latest yarn but soap storylines from the mind of Liverpool’s own Phil Redmond. 

Responsible for some of the longest-running soap operas in British TV history, such as Grange Hill, Brookside, and Hollyoaks, Professor Philip Redmond CBE is the latest Scouser to take his rightful place in our Liverpool Icons series. 

The Early Years

Born in Huyton in 1949, Phil Redmond’s upbringing was steeped in community values. His mother, a cleaner and father, a bus and ambulance driver, were tireless volunteers in the city, receiving a medal from the Pope in recognition of their work. 

As a boy, Phil attended St. Kevin’s RC School in Northwood, Kirkby, where he achieved four O-levels and one A-level. 

Phil Redmond

After school, he initially trained as a quantity surveyor at Liverpool Polytechnic. Still, his flair for writing was always at the fore. In his twenties, he wrote jokes for comedians, including the late great Les Dawson. 

Having experienced a degree of success in the field, Phil decided to give scriptwriting a go full-time, quitting his surveying work in 1972. Whilst establishing himself as an up-and-comer, he also studied sociology as a mature student at Liverpool University. 

TV Success

With early writing credits on Doctors in Charge (ITV 1972-73) under his belt, the young writer exploded onto the television scene proper in 1978 with his creation, Grange Hill. 

Gritty, hard-hitting and featuring one of TV’s most memorable theme tunes, Grange Hill was the first children’s drama to tackle real-life issues head-on. Storylines at the fictitious North London Comprehensive included bullying, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, gun crime and alcoholism. 

The series ran on the BBC for a remarkable 30 years, launching the careers of Todd Carty, Susan Tully, Michelle Gayle, John Alford and other stars of stage and screen. 

Before being cancelled in 2008, it was filmed and produced in Liverpool for five years, with local schools Croxteth Comprehensive, Holly Lodge Girl’s School and St. Hilda’s C of E acting as sets for the show. 

In 1981, Phil founded Mersey Television. Now known as Lime Pictures, it became one of Britain’s largest independent production companies. 

Hot on the heels of Grange Hill’s success, Phil developed the iconic Scouse soap, Brookside. Arguably his greatest creation, the show launched as a flagship for the newly commissioned Channel 4 in 1982. 

One of the most talked about and controversial soaps of all time, ‘Brookie’ followed the lives of regular Liverpudlian families as they battled with the social issues of the day. 

The show’s realism and authenticity owed much to the fact that Redmond and his team purpose-built the Brookside Close cul-de-sac for filming. 

A stunning success from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, Brookside’s most memorable moments included incest, adultery, murder and television’s first pre-watershed onscreen lesbian kiss. 

Controversial and thought-provoking in equal measure, the soap achieved peak viewing figures of 9 million, making it Channel 4’s flagship show. 

After losing its initial impact, the show was cancelled in 2003. Now available on STV, Brookie is experiencing a renaissance, with 1 million streams since its recent launch on the platform. 

Having served briefly as programme consultant on Emmerdale in 1993, where he is credited with reversing the show’s flagging ratings, Phil created Hollyoaks two years later. 

Based in Chester and following the lives of glamorous twentysomethings in and around Chester, Hollyoaks would again see the writer use his platform to face real-life issues head-on. From rape and self-harm to drug dealing and anorexia, Hollyoaks has had it all, including the infamous parachute death scene. 

Still one of the most popular recurring dramas on telly today, the show often sweeps the board at the British Soap Awards. 

A True Liverpudlian 

Alongside his work as a writer, Phil Redmond has made other significant contributions to Liverpool. 

Appointed as chair of National Museums Liverpool in 2008, he was also Deputy Chair and Creative Director of the city’s Capital of Culture Board, lending his unique ‘Scouse edge’ to the hugely successful city showcase. 

In 2004, Phil was awarded a much-deserved CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to drama. 

With many other awards and positions of honour too numerous to list here, Phil Redmond is much more than ‘The Bloke From Down the Road’. He’s a bonafide Liverpool Icon. We can’t wait to see what drama he brings us next.  

See our other Liverpool Icons HERE.

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