From 1989 to 2006 Children’s BBC drama Byker Grove thrilled teenagers with its storylines revolving around a North East youth centre. Now the real-life setting for the Grove is making headlines as racists target the building due to proposals to turn it into an Islamic School.
Images of a pig’s head hanging from the main gates to the entrance of the famous television youth club were sent to Newcastle newspaper the Evening Chronicle – who deemed them too offensive to publish.
The building, a former pub and originally the Prince Bishop’s Palace, is located in the West End of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the town of Benwell. The Palace was until recently the home of production company Zenith North, who produced Byker Grove for the BBC until it was axed four years ago.
The complex was sold in September this year for a much reduced price of £300,000 to the BAHR Academy who provide community outlets in multi-cultural areas. Their plans revealed the building was to be transformed into an ‘Islamic school and cultural centre’ – which seemingly hasn’t gone down well with some Benwell residents.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, who represents the area for Newcastle City Council, told the Evening Chronicle;
“I have heard it is the far right who are stirring a lot of racial hatred. It creates hatred and encourages someone to go and put a pig’s head on the gates of the building. The centre is going to be an Islamic school and cultural centre which will be open to the whole community, not just the Asian community.”
Byker Grove made stars of ‘Ant and Dec’ – Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly – now popular presenters on ITV, but were better known to CBBC viewers as PJ and Duncan. Ant and Dec return to ITV screens with another series of I’m A Celebrity this week..