It’s been nearly 20 years since viewers said goodbye to the nineties classic Byker Grove.
The show – which launched in 1989 and aired its final episode in 2006 – was a coming of age series that followed the turbulent lives of the members of a youth centre in Newcastle.
Speaking about the reboot, Dec said the pair were ‘beyond excited’ adding that he hopes the series will ‘help shine a spotlight on the North East and the talent the region has to offer both in front of the camera and behind it’.
From £30 million ITV contracts to leaving the limelight completely FEMAIL looks at where the programme’s stars are now…
P.J. AND DUNCAN: Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly have confirmed they’re reviving Byker Grove almost two decades after the children’s series aired its final episode
Ant and Dec are the biggest success stories to come out of the Grove. The pair played best mates on the show and starred in one of the most famous episodes when PJ was blinded in a paintballing accident (pictured in 1998)
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly are the biggest success stories to come out of the Grove.
The pair played best mates on the show and starred in one of the most famous episodes when PJ was blinded in a paintballing accident.
While there’s no word yet if Ant and Dec will revive their roles as PJ and Duncan, the duo have confirmed they are bringing the show back to capture a whole new host of fans.
Speaking about the reboot, Dec said:’Byker Grove will always be very special to us as the show which gave us our break, so we are beyond excited.
‘We are looking forward to bringing this fresh incarnation to a whole new generation as well as those who remember it as fondly as we do.’
The project comes two years after the pair launched a free scheme backed by the Prince’s Trust to help young unemployed people kickstart their TV careers.
Byker is to be produced by the pair’s Mitre Studios alongside Fulwell 73, which was co-founded by James Corden.
Ant and Dec – who are currently taking a break from their hit show Saturday Night Takeaway – shared a Twitter video announcing the news on Tuesday, writing: ‘We hope you’re as psyche(d) as us for this comeback #Byker.’
After leaving in 1993, the duo released their debut single under the alias of PJ & Duncan. They also released three albums as well as a string of top hits including Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble.
There’s no word yet if Ant and Dec will revive their roles as PJ and Duncan but they have confirmed they are bringing the show back to capture a whole new host of fans
In parallel, they forged successful careers as TV hosts, fronting popular reality shows such as Pop Idol, Saturday Night Takeaway, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity.
While this year the duo are getting se to host I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! All Stars in the South African jungle.
Earlier this year the pair signed a three-year ‘golden handcuffs’ deal with ITV thought to be worth upwards of £30 million.
It means the presenting duo, who are expected to earn more than £15 million each for the contract, will celebrate 25 years with the broadcaster.
ITV was thought to have been keen to finalise the contract for the pair after interest from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Ant said: ‘We’re so lucky to host the best entertainment shows in the world. We absolutely love our shows and we are both extremely happy and very excited to extend our relationship with ITV for another three years.’
Dec joked: ‘We can’t believe we are reaching 25 years exclusively with ITV. Especially as we are both only turning 30 this year…!’
They are thought to have an estimated net worth of more than £62 million each as of last year and are two of the best-paid presenters on British TV.
Despite taking a break from Saturday Night Takeaway the pair will continue their exclusive working relationship with ITV, hosting hit shows including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, Britain’s Got Talent and Limitless Win, all of which air across ITV1 and ITVX.
Ant said: ‘We love making Saturday Night Takeaway, but reaching the milestone of 20 series seemed like the perfect time to pause for a little while and catch our breath.’
Dec added: ‘We still have a momentous 20th series to look forward to first so we will do our best to go out (for now) with a bang in 2024!’
Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, produced by Lifted Entertainment (part of ITV Studios) and Mitre Studios, will return next year for its 20th series.
GARY: Dale Meeks
Dale Meeks sadly passed away in April this year aged 47, and fans have been left heartbroken
The actor starred as Greg, leader of Denton Burn, the rivals to the Byker Grove youth club
Dale Meeks played the leader of a gang for five series of the BBC teen drama Byker Grove.
The actor starred as Greg, leader of Denton Burn, the rivals to the Byker Grove youth club.
More recently, Meeks starred in ITV true crime drama The Hunt For Raoul Moat, as Moat’s friend Rory Sutcliffe.
Meeks played the character Simon Meredith in Emmerdale between 2003 and 2006.
The 47-year-old also appeared in Casualty and drama series Inspector George Gently.
He also played a custody sergeant in Tracey Beaker spin-off The Dumping Ground.
Apart from his TV careers Dale was part of the cast of musical Chicago and had a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies.
Dale sadly passed away in April this year aged 47, and fans have been left heartbroken.
Ant and Dec lead the tributes from his Byker Grove co-stars as they took to social media to pay their respects to the actor.
They wrote: ‘He was the loveliest of guys, even though he was a Denton ‘Burner’, the arch nemesis of the Byker ‘Grovers’! A sad loss at such a young age. RIP Dale. Sleep well bonny lad.’
His death, the cause of which is yet to be announced, was confirmed by a family member on Facebook, after which the presenting duo led a flood of tributes across social media.
It read: ‘So unbelievably sad. Brother in Law, mucca, side kick and just the BEST friend a lad could have wished for. RIP Dale Meeks. So much less to laugh about now you’re not there to share it with.’
‘Thanks everyone for all the beautiful messages and memories you have been sharing.
‘The support of Dale’s friends has been so incredibly strong over these chaotic, heartbreaking final hours, I can only stand in awe.’
In an emotional tribute on Instagram, his brother Philip Meeks wrote how he ‘tried so desperately’ to help The Hunt For Raoul Moat star, who he claimed had been battling with ‘undiagnosed conditions’.
He added: ‘Dale was profoundly unwell and unable to cope and undiagnosed conditions in men in their forties are killers.
‘Dale was let down by those who should have seen beyond his ability to act and recognise his pain.’
Philip Meeks claimed his brother’s death certificate will say he died of ‘heart failure’ but said he would be fundraising for mental health charity, Mind. He added: ‘The little boy I grew up with left me. I care for him so deeply… I will never get over his death.’
NICOLA: Jill Halfpenny
In 2021, Jill starred as a grieving mother who believed she found her son nine years after losing him to a drowning in Channel 5’s drama, The Drowning (pictured in 2022)
Back in the early days of Byker Grove, Jill Halfpenny’s character Nicola Dobson was a big favourite with viewers and the actress continues to entertain fans decades on
Back in the early days of Byker Grove, Jill Halfpenny’s character Nicola Dobson was a big favourite with viewers and the actress continues to entertain fans decades on.
She then went onto play Rebecca Hopkins in Coronation Street before following it up with the role of Kate Mitchell in rival soap EastEnders.
After her soap roles, the 47-year-old found success in Strictly Come Dancing in 2004, partnered with professional dancer Darren Bennett, which led to a stint as Roxie Hart in the West End production of the musical Chicago.
She went on to win an Olivier Award for her performance in Legally Blonde at The Savoy Theatre, and starred in British comedy series Babylon.
As well as acting, Jill now also appears on ITV daytime show Loose Women, discussing her experiences of motherhood and other current affairs.
In 2021, Jill starred as a grieving mother who believed she found her son nine years after losing him to a drowning in Channel 5’s drama, The Drowning.
The actress, who rose to fame in the Grove at the tender age of 14, previously admitted almost three decades in the industry has taught her not to take rejection personally, adding that it can make you ‘bitter and anxious’ otherwise’.
She said: ‘It takes a strong person to put themselves through that. If you don’t gain perspective, you can become bitter or anxious.’
Jill is mother to 15-year-old son Harvey with her ex husband and actor Craig Conway, who she was married to from 2007 to 2010.
The actress has remained very private about her love life but opened up about her grief in 2019 after the death of her partner Matt, who suffered a heart attack at the gym in 2017.
Appearing on Craig Parkinson’s podcast, The Two Shot Podcast, Jill explained how his death mirrored that of her father, Colin Halfpenny, who also died of a heart attack in 1979, when the actress was just four years old.
‘In January 2017, my partner, in very similar circumstances to my dad, he went to a peloton class at the gym, and he had a heart attack and died,’ Jill said.
She continued: ‘My grief at losing Matt, my partner, was so brutal and so shocking but then what happened was it brought out all of the grief from my dad as well. It was like dealing with a double loss – a loss I’d never actually dealt with.’
‘I just found myself thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is unbearable. What am I going to do? I cannot cope. I just want cessation, this feeling to stop.’
SPUGGIE: Lyndyann Barrass
Lyndyann Barrass, 47, explained that a terrifying attack made her decide to quit the entertainment industry for good (pictured in 2014)
As bolshy youngster Spuggie, Lyndyann Barrass was one of Byker Grove’s most famous faces and starred on the show for a total of four years and six series
As bolshy youngster Spuggie, Lyndyann Barrass, 47, was one of Byker Grove’s most famous faces and starred on the show for a total of four years and six series.
However, since leaving the programme she never quite found the next big TV break.
Last year she told The Sun: ‘I appeared in a few one-off dramas, but I’d been typecast as the redhead from ‘that Geordie show’ and struggled to find work.
‘Aged 21, I joined a band called Angel, but we weren’t successful and I left after a year.
‘Three years later, I was beaten unconscious in the street by three strangers who recognised me as Spuggy.’
She explained that the terrifying attack made her decide to quit the entertainment industry for good.
However in 2021 Lyndyann was spotted on an episode of Pointless Celebrities.
She told Pointless host Alexander Armstrong that joined the Byker Grove cast after her school drama teacher told her she should go for it, explaining that producers visited a number of schools in the North East to audition young actors.
In 2020 she hosted a segment on Channel 5 throwback show Top of the Box, fronting the children’s TV highlights from 1989.
CHARLIE: Donna Air
In 2020, Donna starred in the hit BBC drama The Split the show followed a family of lawyers and their professional and personal lives (pictured in 2023)
Donna Air, 43, found fame as Charlie Charlton at just ten years old on Byker Grove. Her character appeared on the show for four series between 1992 to 1995
Donna Air, 43, found fame as Charlie Charlton at just ten years old on Byker Grove.
Her character appeared on the show for four series between 1992 to 1995.
She went on to join the pop duo Crush touring the U.S., Japan and South East Asia before working as a presenter for MTV in the Nineties and appearing on the cover of a host of men’s magazines.
Donna also has a string of small movie roles to her name, and has appeared in some of telly’s biggest reality shows, including Dancing on Ice, Splash! and even Celebrity MasterChef.
In 2020, Donna starred in the hit BBC drama The Split the show followed a family of lawyers and their professional and personal lives.
In 2022, the star fractured her spine in two places just before Christmas, leaving her bed-bound and in a neck brace.
Luckily she went on to make a full recovery and was was counting her blessings at the premiere of Never Forget Tibet: The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story earlier this year.
She said: ‘I feel very blessed and very lucky to have made a full recovery, it was very debilitating, but I did a lot of reading and a lot of walking.
‘It was quite a different pace of life for me. It was a reminder to myself to cling to the things that really matter.’
Donna had a brief romance with vaping millionaire Gunnar Winbergh last year and afterwards was spotted looking very cosy with new man Ashley Smatt.
Donna was last linked to Gunnar, whose vitamin vapes boast ‘inhaling your supplements supports your health’, last summer – but it appears that she has now found love with the advertising tycoon.
The business mogul is the founder and CEO of Maximus, a UK based Out-of-Home advertising company.
He is also CEO of Maximus Networks, a British telecommunications company providing a network of interactive street hubs.
Prior to her new romance with Ashley, Donna was dating Gunnar, who has three children with his ex-wife Saskia, who once dated Theo Osbourne, colourful younger brother of former Chancellor George.
Donna previously dated Damian Aspinall, with whom she has a daughter, Freya, and went on to date James Middleton.
The couple had been in an on-off relationship for several years, and Donna attended the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews in May 2017.
Donna split from James in 2018, but vowed to remain on good terms with her former partner. She told the Mail on Sunday: ‘James and I are no longer an item. We parted ways in December but remain the very best of friends and always will be.’
It later emerged she was in a romance with Harrow-educated property developer Ben Carrington, 39, and Donna told the Daily Mail at the time how she was enjoying decorating their new West London home.
However the couple soon went their separate ways.
JASON: Charlie Hunnam
Charlie Hunnam, the son of a scrap metal dealer, reportedly got his lucky break on Byker Grove after being spotted by a production manager in a Newcastle shoe shop (pictured on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2022)
Although he only appeared in only three episodes as Jason, Charlie went on to have worldwide success
Charlie Hunnam, the son of a scrap metal dealer, reportedly got his lucky break on Byker Grove after being spotted by a production manager in a Newcastle shoe shop.
Although he only appeared in only three episodes as Jason, Charlie went on to have worldwide success.
He landed his first major role in Russell T Davies’ groundbreaking drama, Queer As Folk, in 1999.
He then moved to Los Angeles where he has starred in a number of films as well as playing Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller in popular U.S. motorbike drama, Sons of Anarchy.
And to top it off, he was originally cast as Christian in Fifty Shades of Grey before Jamie Dornan scored the role.
In February 2022, it was reported that Hunnam was part of the ensemble cast director Zack Snyder had been gathering for his upcoming Netflix film Rebel Moon.
The epic space opera reunites him with with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword cast mate Djimon Hounsou, along with Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Skrein, Michiel Huisman, Doona Bae, Ray Fisher, Staz Nair, and Anthony Hopkins, who was cast in a voice role.
With the shoot lasting from April through until December 2002, Snyder directed the film from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad, based on a story he also created with Johnstad.
The leading man had been busy working on Shantaram, which wrapped on the season one shoot in December 2021 that lasted more than two years, due in part to the monsoon season and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hunnam played Dale Conti, an Australian philosophy student and paramedic who winds up in jail after a bout with drugs that led to an armed robbery conviction.
However it was revealed in December that the streaming service was canceling the series.
The series is based on Gregory David Roberts’ 900-page 2003 novel, which was previously eyed as a film adaptation before it was turned into the now short-lived series.
Hunnam leads a cast that also includes Shubham Saraf, Elektra Kilbey, Fayssal Bazzi, Luke Pasqualino, Alyy Khan, Sujaya Dasgupta, Vincent Perez, David Field, Alexander Siddig, Gabrielle Scharnitzky, Elham Ehsas, Rachel Kamath, Matthew Joseph and Shiv Palekar.
The series was co-created by Steven Lightfoot and Eric Warren Singer, who both executive produce with Lightfoot serving as showrunner.
As for his personal life, Hunnam has been in a relationship with artist Morgana McNelis since 2005.
GEOFF: Billy Fane
Billy Fane’s character Geoff was a staple of Byker Grove for more than ten years as the youth club’s leader
Billy Fane’s character Geoff was a staple of Byker Grove for more than ten years as the youth club’s leader.
However, the gang’s head honcho met an unfortunate end on the show when he was killed off in an accidental gas explosion in 2000.
After being written out Billy, whose real name is Malcolm Collins, appeared in a number of big screen productions most notably, Billy Elliot.
He has had minor roles in films like Cloud Cuckoo Land and Young Hearts Run Free in 2004 and 2011 respectively.
He also returned to his stand-up comedy roots with a spot of pantomime.
However, fulfilling a lifelong goal, Billy turned his attention to studying and in 2006 he achieved a masters degree in special needs education.
As a result, he landed himself a job teaching inmates at six prisons throughout the North.
Billy previously told the Chronicle Live: ‘It was something I wanted to do from my 20s when I dropped out of working with disadvantaged kids as I didn’t believe I could get the qualifications needed.
‘But after Byker Grove finished I started a creative writing class at Castington Offenders Institute and things just took off.
‘I loved learning at university and now I am able to pass that knowledge on. I don’t think I’ve been as happy.’
His latest TV appearances include Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in 2014 and The Last Leg in 2020.
POLLY: Denise Welch
Denise Welch is now be beloved for her regular appearances on the popular ITV talk show Loose Woman
She might have only had a short seven-episode stint on the Grove as Polly between 1990 and 91, but Denise went on to achieve bigger fame in the long run
She might have only had a short seven-episode stint on the Grove as Polly between 1990 and 91, but Denise Welch went on to achieve bigger fame in the long run.
In 1993, she became a household name when she was cast as Marsha Stubbs in ITV’s drama series Soldier Soldier.
Owing to her success in the series, she released a single in 1995, ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me/Cry Me A River’ which spent three weeks in the UK singles chart.
The mother-of-two gained even wider notability in 1997 when she was cast as Natalie Horrocks in ITV’s hit soap opera Coronation Street.
She emerged victorious in the 2012 season of Big Brother, the ninth season of the popular show.
Off-screen things were not always plain sailing for Denise, as she struggled with mental health problems and alcohol abuse.
She has since told the story of her journey to recovery in her memoir, Pulling Myself Together, and has credited Coronation Street co-star Kevin Kennedy with helping her get to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Denise is now be beloved for her regular appearances on the popular ITV talk show Loose Woman.
The TV star graced the show again in June weeks after revealing she was stepping down on her birthday in anticipation of a ‘little adventure’.
In a video shared last month, she said: ‘Today, on my 65th birthday, I want to say thank you in advance for all the lovely messages and comments that I’ve received…
‘I’m going off on a little adventure for a couple of weeks so I’m going to be off here and off my phone. I don’t know how I’m going to cope, but I’ll give it a try, so don’t think I have disappeared. It’s just a temporary little holiday and I’ll be back soon.’
Denise first joined Loose Women as a panellist in 2005, later left in 2013 and returned in 2018 – and on Thursday she was back in style.
BEN: Andrew Hayden-Smith
Andrew added an impressive string to his acting bow by scoring a regular gig on Doctor Who and Hollyoaks
Andrew Hayden Smith as Ben and Holly Matthews as Emma on Byker Grove in 2003
Actor and columnist Andrew Hayden-Smith’s older sister, Kerri Hayden, worked on Byker Grove as part of the film crew.
While visiting the set one day, he was spotted by the series’ executive producer, who cast him in the role of Ben Carter, making his first appearance in the eighth series of the show in 1995.
After his bad boy character was killed off, Andrew landed himself a few presenting gigs on the likes of Live & Kicking and CBBC.
He then added an impressive string to his acting bow by scoring a regular gig on Doctor Who and Hollyoaks.
He’s now a recognisable voiceover artist introducing programmes on ITV.
Speaking to ReVamp magazine he said: ‘I had a taste of working on a soap during my time at Hollyoaks and loved it. I was there for almost two years.
‘I would have stayed longer but my character was such a villain, there was no going back for him – but I’d definitely like to do another soap in the future. Some proper gritty drama too.’