Bell rings on the new term at Ackley Bridge as Calderdale returns to Channel 4

Nas( Amy-Leigh Hickman), Missy( Poppy Lee Friar). Picture: Channel 4/Matt Squire
Nas( Amy-Leigh Hickman), Missy( Poppy Lee Friar). Picture: Channel 4/Matt Squire

Calderdale is cementing its name of “Callywood” in the TV world as film crews continue to use the rolling hills and bustling towns as a backdrop on our screens.

And it was lights, camera, action once again as Channel 4 returned to the former St Catherine’s Catholic High School in Holmfield, Halifax earlier this year for a new term of Ackley Bridge.

Mandy( Jo Joyner), Mr Evershed(Robert Jame Collier), Sue Carp (Charlie Hardwick). Picture: Channel 4

Mandy( Jo Joyner), Mr Evershed(Robert Jame Collier), Sue Carp (Charlie Hardwick). Picture: Channel 4

The programme centres around the fictional Yorkshire mill town of Ackley Bridge and its local school, which was designed to unite the divided white and Asian communities.

Read: First look at Ackley Bridge series three as new trailer is released
In the past two series we’ve seen issues surrounding race, relationships, death and sexuality, but what can we expect when the bell rings on a new term at Ackley Bridge?

At the end of last series the school became part of a large multi-academy trust in the hopes of saving it from financial difficulty and falling student numbers.

Sue Carp has joined Ackley Bridge College as new director of behaviour as part of the package from the new Valley Trust.

Missy (Poppy Lee Friar). Picture: Channel 4

Missy (Poppy Lee Friar). Picture: Channel 4

Played by Charlie Hardwick, Sue isn’t the most passionate teacher on the payroll and is described as disenchanted and distinctly un-PC.

“Sue’s horrible,” Charlie said. “She’s disillusioned and feels like she’s worthless and won’t be able to retire until she’s 67 and that’s a long time to kind of look at the end.”

Former Emmerdale star Charlie hopes that viewers of the show won’t like her character and the way she behaves.

She said: “I hope that people don’t agree with how she is and I hope people are quite horrified at her attitudes.

Nas( Amy-Leigh Hickman). Picture: Channel 4/Matt Squire

Nas( Amy-Leigh Hickman). Picture: Channel 4/Matt Squire

“I like being around kids and unlike Sue I think they’re fun. I have fun at work and then put my dead, drained face on when we do a take.

“I think it enlivens you when you’re around young people.”

Read: Date revealed for when series three of Channel 4 drama Ackley Bridge will hit our screens
Charlie was a fan of the Channel 4 drama before getting on board. “I’m honestly a fan,” she said. “I love Penny, the director and I love her work so I’m over the moon.

“I have always been passionate about justice and equality, and the ability of drama to counter ignorance, racism and prejudice.

Picture: Channel 4

Picture: Channel 4

“I applauded the boldness and courage of the Ackley Bridge creators to tackle these real-life experiences head on, with fantastic writing and terrific characters.

“Ackley Bridge gives us access into the lives and experiences of others that we would normally never get to glimpse, let alone understand.”

Joining Charlie as a new member of staff is Robert James-Collier. The Downton Abbey actor plays Martin Evershed, the deputy head teacher who’s also been given to the school by the Valley Trust.

“He’s a guy who’s incredibly passionate about teaching,” Robert explained. “But he’s not necessarily a guy who’s incredibly passionate about the bureaucracy that comes with it.

“He’s a breath of fresh air and he makes lessons interesting.

“One of the main draws of this job for me was working with the young adults.

“As people get older they can be cynical but with young adults they don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve just come from, whether you’ve been to LA or not they’re just like we’re here now, we’re living life, we’re having a laugh and we want you to have a laugh and just join in.

“That’s really refreshing.”

Read: Two new cast members announced as Ackley Bridge begins filming in Calderdale
Although his unusual teaching methods are a hit with the students, they’re not completely welcomed by Mandy Carter.

Mandy, played by Jo Joyner, still heads up the school but she’s facing more pressure than ever.

“Mandy is fighting. After giving herself over to the trust her worst fears are coming into fruition,” Jo said. “The trust don’t seem to understand the ethos and the concept behind the school, which was to join the community together and to encourage a lot of working class kids that people haven’t maybe got aspirations for.

“It feels like the school has become a bit of a dumping ground for trust teachers and students that they don’t know where else to put in the area. She’s getting to know her new teachers and getting to know if they’re worth anything.”

Mandy also has a lot happening beyond the school walls as she is no longer with her husband and is expecting a baby, so things don’t look like they’re going to be easy for the Ackley Bridge head teacher.

The students are at the heart of the show and once again real pupils from schools across Calderdale joining professional actors in the classroom.

The friendship of Missy Booth and Nas Paracha is one of the highlights of the show.

They’ve had highs and lows with their friendship over the past two series but this year their different plans for the future may push it to the limit.

“Missy and Nas have been friends since birth,” explains Poppy Lee Friar, who plays the no nonsense Missy. “They

even share a birthday. They have so much love and respect for each other and help each other get through all the bad times as well as laugh through the good times.”

Nas is looking at going to study medicine at Oxford University, a long way from the small town of Ackley Bridge, and the major life change is set to test her relationship with Missy.

Read: Ackley Bridge film crews spotted in Halifax town centre as filming for Channel 4 drama continues
Poppy said: “Missy is very supportive, obviously she’s very excited for Nas to have that opportunity but it makes her reflect on her own situation and she’s sort of confused about her own future.

“She realises that Nas is going out there and getting what she wants, she’s going to have a bright future and she’s going to make a difference.

“But Missy doesn’t quite know how she’s going to achieve that. Her emotions change slightly and it’s not that she’s jealous necessarily, she’s just in a place where she just doesn’t know what to do.”

Amy-Leigh Hickman, who plays Nas, added: “Nas has a tendency to overthink and worry about everything but Missy always knows what to say to her and bring out the best in her. And Nas knows this. I think Nas worries that without her she might not be able to see the positive in things and the potential she has as a person.”

During the first two series, Ackley Bridge received a lot of praise for tackling serious subjects and has been very popular with younger audiences.

“I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve read one negative tweet, not a single one,” Poppy said. “I think that cultural relevance and the positivity of the show everyone has really been behind it and enjoyed it.”

Series three of Ackley Bridge begins on Channel 4 on Tuesday, June 18 at 8pm.