|Created by||Ayub Khan-Din|
|Starring||Current and former cast|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||26 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||Halifax, West Yorkshire, England|
|Running time||60 minutes (series 1–3) |
30 minutes (series 4)
|Production company(s)||The Forge|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Picture format||16:9 1080i|
|Original release||7 June 2017 –|
Ackley Bridge is a British comedy-drama series set in a multicultural academy school of the same name, that began broadcasting on Channel 4 from 7 June 2017. The school is set in the fictional Yorkshire mill town of Ackley Bridge. A second series of twelve episodes was then announced, broadcasting from 5 June to 21 August 2018.
After a third series consisting of eight episodes was broadcast from 18 June 2019 to 6 August 2019, Ackley Bridge was renewed for a fourth series, consisting of ten 30-minute episodes. While the fourth series was originally set to air in September 2020, filming has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2017, Channel 4 announced The ABC, a new six-part school drama. The series follows the merger of two schools in a segregated British and Pakistani community due to budget cuts, exploring "the turbulent school experience, covering the challenges of prejudice and cultural issues in the school environment, as well as the humour, relationships and conflict had by the pupils, teachers and parents." St Catherine's Catholic High School in Halifax is used as Ackley Bridge College. The show was later renamed Ackley Bridge.
Following the Manchester Arena bombing, the first episode was re-edited prior to airing as there were scenes showing "a troubled student strap a fake bomb to himself in order to disrupt the merging of a predominantly white and a predominantly Asian school." A spokesperson said "In light of the tragic events in Manchester, the first episode of forthcoming drama series Ackley Bridge is being re-edited."
Ahead of the first series premiere, additional content from the show was shared on Snapchat for "high school age characters to tell their stories in the way young people are" to introduce the characters. Further episodes will "be subsidised with additional videos that will help build the world outside of the allocated TV broadcast."
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||7 June 2017||12 July 2017|
|2||12||5 June 2018||21 August 2018|
|3||8||18 June 2019||6 August 2019|
The cast, main and supporting, are a mix of experienced and trained actors, as well as street cast actors. Amy-Leigh Hickman, known for playing Carmen Howle in Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground, plays Nasreen Paracha, daughter of Kaneez, who she describes as a "quieter and tamer" student, as well as "intelligent", but "ballsy." She felt comfortable acting scenes with Poppy Lee Friar, known for playing Eve in Eve, who plays best friend Missy Booth, due to having a friendship in real life. Friar says she loves portraying Missy, who she describes as "sassy, saucy and a survivor." Television newcomers Nazmeen Kausar Hussain and Esa Ashraf play Razia and Saleem Paracha, Kaneez's two other children.
Former EastEnders actors Jo Joyner and Paul Nicholls received the parts of married couple Mandy Carter, the headteacher of Ackley Bridge College and Steve Bell, a PE teacher. Joyner describes Mandy as "career driven", who has "worked so hard over the years to get to the level she's at." Joyner adds she likes the fact her character is not interested in having children. Despite her character being "organised and driven in her business life [...] she's not at all organised or in control at home." Maariah Hussain and Samuel Bottomley, both students at Yorkshire School of Acting in Bradford, were cast as Alya Nawaz and Jordan Wilson respectively. Hussain described her character as "super intelligent, fiercely righteous, and a bit of a mean girl", who is also "insecure as any teenage girl" but "has ambitions to run her own business, like her father, but struggles to make him see she's capable of it." Jordan is billed as "badly behaved and not fazed by getting into trouble", however "he's bright and a talented artist, but thinks school is pointless." Matt Zina, principal of Hussain and Bottomley's acting school said Ackley Bridge is Hussain's first role and "she has taken to it like a duck to water. She has loved being part of a major TV series and was excited to be working with some of the big-name actors involved" and he called Bottomley an "exciting young actor." Cody Ryan got the part of Hayley Booth through an acting workshop at her school, Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, which was run by Beverley Keogh casting agency. Students from Trinity Academy, North Halifax Grammar School, The Crossley Heath School and Calderdale College feature in the series.
In the second series, Tony Jayawardena was cast as Rashid Hyatt, a science teacher at Ackley Bridge College, and a love interest of Kaneez. Adam Fielding appeared as Aaron Turner, the half-brother of Nasreen, as well as Jay Saighal in the role of Javid Shah, the short-lived deputy head. Megan Parkinson was then cast in the role of Sam Murgatroyd, a love interest of Nasreen. Vicky Entwistle and Kimberley Walsh also guest starred in the second series, as Sandra Turner and Claire Butterworth, respectively.
For the third series, several new roles were cast, including Rob James-Collier, Charlie Hardwick, Phoebe Tuffs-Berry, Zara Salim, Hareet Deol and Ty Glaser in regular roles. Antonio Aakeel, Natalie Gavin and James Atherton, amongst others, also joined the series in recurring roles.
In December 2019, Ackley Bridge was renewed for a fourth series, and it was announced that the series would face an overhaul, including cast changes. Robyn Cara was cast as Kayla, a "funny, mixed-race pupil torn between her white mum's family and her traditional Pakistani dad's family", alongside sister Marina, played by Carla Woodcock, who was described by Digital Spy as a "mean girl". Yasmin Al Khudhairi was cast as Fizza, the best friend of Kayla, and a "fiercely intelligent, fist-in-the-air firebrand". Ryan Dean was cast in the role of Johnny, "a cocky, good-looking member of the traveller community who is deeply suspicious of school, and who catches the eye of both Kayla and Fizza", and it was also confirmed that Connor McIntyre would guest star as Johnny's grandfather. Tahir, played by Shobhit Piasa, will also join in the fourth series, as "the smooth talking billy-liar nephew of Kaneez, whose salesman's patter hides a family secret". The castings come as a result of numerous cast members leaving following the ending of the third series.
Since the series was announced, Ackley Bridge has been compared to the BBC school drama, Waterloo Road, with Duncan Lindsay from Metro opining that "Channel 4 have been crying out for a solid drama to fit into the early night slot" and that there has been a lack of a "solid school based drama", stating that Ackley Bridge "follows the trials and tribulations of an academy which has merged two different communities together." The series has also been compared to BBC's other long-running school drama series, Grange Hill, as Michael Hogan from The Guardian stated "it could be described as Grange Hill with a mobile phone and a northern accent."
Sam Wollaston from The Guardian said the character of Jordan Wilson, played by Samuel Bottomley, "is the best character at Ackley Bridge – smart, offensive to everyone, the school wind-up merchant, who also represents a pessimistic but realistic view that such attempts at integration are futile." He added that the "teachers aren't a whole lot better than they kids" due to the situations, such as the love triangle between Mandy Carter, Steve Bell and Sadiq Nawaz, played by Jo Joyner, Paul Nicholls and Adil Ray respectively and Steve hitting Jordan, but said it "was a teeny bit justified." He described Liz White's character, Emma Keane, as "a hippy-dippy flippy-floppy backpacker." The show has also been thought of as a Waterloo Road and Shameless mix and the social media aspect is seen as "savvy." He also added that the show raised questions "about whether total integration is possible, even necessary, both in school and out of school. That side of things is handled carefully and sensitively. Real issues aren't avoided, cultural differences aren't denied; at the same time, obvious and boring stereotypes are avoided. If that makes it sound worthy, it really isn't. It's pleasingly loud and mischievous. Well, it's school, of course it is. As well as boobs, Ackley Bridge has balls. And a heart." Poppy Lee Friar and Cody Ryan received praise from viewers in the fourth episode of series one, where the episode revolved around Missy dealing with the death of Julia Booth, played by Rita May, which leads to Hayley being placed in care. Viewers also praised scenes of Lila Sharif, played by Anneika Rose, coming out as lesbian to her students.
Rianne Houghton of Digital Spy praised Friar for her performance as Missy during the teenage pregnancy storyline in series two, as well as the portrayal of "supportive female friendships". She also praised the "realistic and balanced portrayal of teen pregnancy and abortion". The child abuse storyline in series two involving Jordan (Bottomley) and Cory Wilson (Sam Retford) received praise from media and viewers, who thanked the producers for handling a difficult subject gracefully; Jor Anderton of Digital Spy added that "we can definitely put all the comparisons to Waterloo Road aside". Retford received praise again, following the discovering of Cory's troubled home life, mental illness and poverty was covered, with Digital Spy stating that the series "has never been one to shy away from serious, real-world issues". In 2019, Nasreen Paracha was listed as one of Autostraddle's Favourite Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans TV Characters of 2019, and was described as "groundbreaking". It was noted that representation of Muslims on primetime television is rare, and that "to have a young queer Muslim woman as, essentially, the lead character in an ensemble show" was something to be praised.
Awards and nominations
|2017||Promax Awards||Best Social or Digital Campaign||George Ormond||Won|
|2018||Irish Film & Television Academy||Best Script||Malcom Campbell||Nominated|
|Best Director||Robert Quinn||Nominated|
|Royal Television Society Yorkshire||Best Music||Tim Phillips||Won|
|Best Actor||Poppy Lee Friar||Won|
|Best Director||Penny Woolcock||Won|
|Best Drama||Ackley Bridge||Won|
|2019||Diva Awards||Storyline of the Year||Ackley Bridge||Nominated|
|Royal Television Society Yorkshire||Best Drama||Ackley Bridge||Won|
|Original Digital Content||Ackley Bridge Snapchat stories||Won|
|Use of Music or Sound||Tim Phillips||Nominated|
|TV Choice Awards||Best Drama Series||Ackley Bridge||Nominated|
|Asian Media Awards||Best Entertainment Show||Ackley Bridge||Nominated|
|Best TV Character||Kaneez Paracha (Sunetra Sarker)||Won|
|2020||Royal Television Society Programme Awards||Best Drama||Ackley Bridge||Nominated|
|TV Choice Awards||Best Drama Series||Ackley Bridge||Nominated|
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- "Robert James-Collier & Charlie Hardwick join Ackley Bridge". Channel 4. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
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- "Ackley Bridge reveals new cast members and shares big update on season 4". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
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- "Ackley Bridge continues to impress with its portrayal of teen pregnancy and abortion". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
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- "Channel 4's Ackley Bridge praised once more for its representation of mental health". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
- "Autostraddle's Favorite and Least Favorite Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans TV Characters of 2019". Autostraddle. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 21 September 2020.