SCHOOL’S out for Waterloo Road in Rochdale.
Production of the drama is to move to Scotland, although how that will be explained on screen is still not clear.
My English exclusive story on the end of an era for the BBC1 show is in today’s MEN here.
With a fuller version below:
AWARD-winning TV drama Waterloo Road is to move from Rochdale to Scotland, the BBC announced today.
It is the end of an era for the show which is currently filming its seventh series at the former Hill Top Primary School in Kirkholt.
And it means an uncertain future for the stars of the hit BBC1 series with some now facing their final term on screen.
The drama will re-locate in April next year to a yet to be chosen new base north of the border as part of the BBC’s move to increase network programming from Scotland.
Viewers will see a “dramatic and explosive” storyline played out on screen in early 2012 with the final Rochdale episodes to be filmed this October.
It will result in a number of current teachers and pupils setting up a new school in Scotland, which will also adopt the Waterloo Road name. It is not yet known how the writers will explain the move.
But some familiar faces will leave the TV school which has been a launch pad for young actors and actresses, many of them from Manchester and the north west.
Glasgow-based Shed Productions chief executive Eileen Gallagher, responsible for making the series, said: “Waterloo Road has had an incredibly happy six years in Rochdale working with one of the best TV crews in the country.
“But now we have outgrown our present site and we couldn’t resist the BBC offer to take the show to Scotland.”
BBC Drama boss Ben Stephenson explained: “As part of our ongoing commitment to establishing a drama base in Scotland, I asked Shed whether they would be interested in relocating future series of Waterloo Road to their home country.
“Whilst sad to leave Rochdale, they immediately saw the potential of the new stories they could tell, as well as being excited about putting down roots in their native Scotland. I am sure fans will love what Shed have planned – it will remain the show our audience love.”
Added Ben: “I would like to pay tribute to Rochdale and the local community who have taken the hit series to their hearts over the past seven years and saw it triumph at this year’s National TV Awards to win Most Popular Drama.”
Ten episodes in the final Rochdale series have already been filmed and will be seen on screen from next month.(September) They include the arrival of new Scottish headmaster Michael Byrne, played by Glasgow-born Alec Newman. He replaces Amanda Burton, who was previous head Karen Fisher.
A further ten episodes will be shot this autumn before the move north and shown after Christmas. The first Scotland-based series is due to be broadcast in Sept 2012.
Cast members past and present have include George Sampson, Rebecca Ryan, William Ash, Angela Griffin, Tina O’Brien, Neil Morrissey, Eva Pope, Jason Merrells, Reece Noi, Tom Chambers, Denise Welch, Lucien Laviscount, Robson Green, Zaraah Abrahams, Linzey Coker, Jason Done, Mark Benton and Philip Martin Brown.
BBC North boss Peter Salmon paid tribute to Rochdale’s role: “Since its first troubled term in March 2006, Waterloo Road has taken viewers on a journey, tackling some of the grittier issues of the day – suicide, drugs, bullying and alcoholism.
“But at the heart of every story, in each of the seven series, Shed Productions, the scriptwriters and the actors themselves ensured that the characters involved were very real and utterly believable.”
While bidding a “fond farewell” to Rochdale’s Waterloo Road, he pointed to a number of forthcoming BBC North dramas, including Salford’s Christopher Eccleston in thriller The Fuse, filmed and set in Manchester, as well as a new series of Jimmy McGovern’s Accused.
“So while we bid the cast and crew of Waterloo Road adieu, a farewell tinged not only with sadness but with a real sense that is has made a difference, I look forward to sitting back and watching new and bold northern dramas unfold,” said Peter.