It’s impossible to escape the hype surrounding Channel 4’s new 8pm drama Ackley Bridge.
Shot on location in Halifax, there’ll be plenty of familiar faces and locations to spot when the series hits screens next Wednesday (June 7).
The show opens on the first day of the merger between two schools - one completely white and one completely Asian - in the fictional Yorkshire mill town of Ackley Bridge.
Here’s your guide to who’s who in the drama, which boasts Jo Joyner (Ordinary Lies, EastEnders) Paul Nicholls (The C Word, Law and Order, EastEnderS) Adil Ray (Citizen Khan) and Sunetra Sarker (Casualty, Emmerdale) as part of the cast.
Missy Booth – Poppy Lee Friar
Missy is described as a survivor. She keeps her family together despite the erratic and destructive visits of her troubled mum, Simone. Three years ago, Missy and Hayley were removed from Simone’s care by Social Services and placed with Simone’s mother, Nana Booth. At home, Missy self-sacrifices, cares for their elderly Nana and makes sure her little sister Hayley has a normal life as possible. But, there’s also a rebellious side to Missy. Her toughness and opinionated streak means that she gets herself into trouble. Her mouth can run away with itself and once she’s said something she’ll never retract it. The boys think Missy is amazing and she knows how to get what she wants when it comes to them. Missy has huge potential. She might not be academic but she is full of street smarts and, given the right opportunities could make a real success of herself despite her circumstances.
Nasreen (Nas) Paracha - Amy-Leigh Hickman
Nas is the yin to Missy’s yang and she’s been Missy’s neighbour and best friend for years. While Missy is the smart mouthed one, Nas is the brains. She’s academic, intelligent and has a questioning mind. Sometimes quiet and introspective, she privately hopes to go to uni but is terrified of the debts. However, Nas also wants to live in the moment. She is a respectable girl in the community but does enjoy going out with Missy and putting the world to rights.
Mandy Carter – Head teacher. Played by Jo Joyner
Mandy swears by the power of education - it’s made her the woman that she is today. Ambitious Mandy has been promoted quickly through her career and sometimes is out of her depth, but she covers her insecurities with gusto. She’s relentlessly driven which means that her relationship with husband Steve sometimes has to take a back seat. To be a super head, Mandy knows that she’s going to have to make sacrifices and though she almost always plays things by the book, Mandy can take risks. Once she’s on a plan of action it’s difficult to sway her off it.
Kaneez Paracha – Dinner lady. Played by Sunetra Sarker
Kaneez is a force of nature. Pakistani born, Kaneez came to Ackley Bridge when she was 16 to marry her husband Iqbal. However, Kaneez has raised her family almost single-handedly as her unreliable husband works away - often for months on end. Self-educated, Kaneez enjoys her independence and running her family without a man around. Highly intelligent and fearless, Kaneez is lippy and opinionated and will never shy away from an argument. If there’s work to be done she’ll settle any row and roll her sleeves up and get on with things. She is an eternal pragmatist making the most of what she’s got and telling other folk to do the same.
Steve Bell – Sports Science teacher. Played by Paul Nicholls
A charismatic ‘man’s man’, Steve is a big presence at Ackley Bridge College. Well-liked by the students and the teachers, Steve is always on hand to break up a fight or settle a discussion but he’s also more than up for a kick about on the school field. Steve isn’t a career teacher like his wife Mandy but he does have a vocation and is particularly good at working with kids – especially lads from challenging backgrounds. He knows how to handle himself, and normally how to keep his temper in check, and his charm and banter can get him out of a sticky situation. Steve likes his ale, his football and his wife, though Mandy’s relentless ambition can sometimes cause arguments between the couple.
Emma Keane – English teacher. Played by Liz White
Emma’s funny, a thrill seeker and a survivor who can look after herself. She is an original and inspiring teacher who tends to make it up as she goes along. Charming and fun to be around, Emma is a laugh. You’d want to go on a night out with her but you might struggle to keep up. Free spirited but still very opinionated, Emma is an authority-figure who has issues with authority. A natural teacher, but not a natural mum, Emma got pregnant in her first year of university and delayed her degree to give birth. The relationship didn’t work out and her daughter Chloe lives with her dad and sees Emma for one weekend a month and half of the school holidays. She loves her daughter but she also loves her space, her freedom and the pupils that she teaches. Emma will go above and beyond in her commitment to her students’ academic but also emotional needs.
Sadiq Nawaz – School sponsor and head of the academy trust. Played by Adil Ray
Head of a thriving middle-class family, Sadiq is a big name in Ackley Bridge. Local boy made good, Sadiq has grafted for everything he’s got and is proud of what he’s achieved. His factory employs a good swathe of the town and he has high hopes for the community, his reputation and his bank balance. Sadiq is a consummate negotiator and charmer but with a roguish, amoral edge. He enjoys women’s company and his wife Farida turns a blind eye as long as no scandal reaches the family home. Sadiq loves his children and hopes for a better, more privileged life for them but isn’t averse to making them work for it like he is.
Samir Qureshi – community liaison. Played by Arsher Ali
Born and bred in Ackley Bridge, Sami fell in with a crew of bad boys in his late teens and became a bit of a jack the lad, drinking, smoking and playing the field. Eventually, Sami found himself on the wrong side of the law which landed him in prison for a five year stint. He’s now a reformed man and far different to the chaotic troublemaker of his youth. He’s hardworking and makes an effort to engage with the pupils he supports on their level. He and Emma were an item before Emma left for university and he’s just as surprised to see her as she is to see him…
Lila Shariff – Biology teacher. Played by Anneika Rose
Dedicated to her job, Lila is a hardworking teacher who wants to do well in her career. Lila enjoys teaching and is a teacher who kids enjoy spending time with, though she knows how to discipline them if needs be. She comes from Glasgow and struggles to understand the segregated world of Ackley Bridge and the traditional Muslim British Pakistani families in the town, though she’s worked in Ackley Bridge for a term at the old majority Asian school.
Will Simpson – PE teacher. Played by Tom Varey
Taking to his new career like a duck to water, Will enjoys teaching. However, sometimes the kids run rings around him. He loves a bit of banter and can get on with most people and is friendly with teachers and pupils alike. However sometimes the teenage girls can be a bit full on and Will can struggle to negotiate how he’s meant to handle them. Happy being just a PE teacher, Will’s not too bothered about his career and, though he believes in the ethos of the new college, he’s far more at home in the pub or out on the pull.
Jordan Wilson. Played by Samuel Bottomley
Jordan is the naughty kid in school, a contemptuous wind-up merchant, he isn’t fazed at the thought of getting into trouble or afraid to push his luck. He’s bright, but thinks school is pointless. Jordan has fire in his belly, he’s a constant thorn in big brother Cory’s side and a headache for his father. Jordan is a talented artist, and he loves comic books.
Riz Nawaz. Played by Nohail Mohammed
Sadiq’s son, sporty and attractive Riz has a real presence amongst his peers. Riz is a loyal person and feels personal integrity, especially his own, is very important.
Alya Nawaz. Played by Maariah Hussain
Riz’s twin and future head girl. Alya is fiercely righteous and an academic snob, super intelligent she can be judgemental – a bit of a mean girl. However, underneath it all she is just as insecure as any normal teenage girl.
Cory Wilson. Played by Sam Retford
Popular and excellent at sports, Cory is not the brightest academically, however he is staving off the inevitable hunt for non-existent jobs by attending sixth form. Successful with the girls, Cory is a ‘player’ but he gets away with it due to his easy charm.
Chloe Voyle. Played by Fern Deacon
Emma’s daughter. Fiercely intelligent and, like her mum, a bit of a wild child too.
Hayley Booth. Played by Cody Ryan
Missy’s little sister, Hayley just wants to have fun despite her hard home life. She appreciates the efforts Missy goes to keep the family together but would like to be able to focus on her friends and boys. She has a loud voice but also low self-esteem.
Razia Paracha. Played by Nazmeen Kauser
Kaneez’s second daughter, Razia is bright, opinionated and keen to learn. Her enthusiasm endears her to her teachers though sometimes her forthright personality can be a bit abrasive. She’s confident, but it’s all a front, as she decides who she is and what she wants to be in the future. Hayley and Razia are inseparable.