Misfits in the Midlands: the creators of Phoenix Rise on the third series of their hit teen drama

Misfits in the Midlands: the creators of Phoenix Rise on the third series of their hit teen drama

By Roz Laws,
Wednesday, 5th June 2024
Phoenix Rise (Credit: BBC)
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon

Hit Coventry teen drama Phoenix Rise is back for a third series. Roz Laws discovers what makes it tick

Phoenix Rise is a hit teen drama about a group of outsiders who help each other to fit in, so it’s good to hear the same thing was happening behind the scenes. Eloise Pennycott arrived in series 2 as Daisy, when the cast had already been working together for three months, but she was quickly welcomed – thanks to her new friends learning British Sign Language (BSL).

The actor lost her hearing at the age of 11, and now lipreads and hears through her cochlear implant. She speaks in Phoenix Rise but used BSL to communicate through an interpreter at the RTS Midlands premiere of series 3, which was followed by a Q&A session.

She told the audience, full of her young co-stars: “Daisy and I both love dramatic entrances! Everyone was so welcoming and, within three weeks, the cast were learning sign language, it was amazing. I’m the first disabled person on the show, so I felt a lot of pressure and a huge responsibility to represent my disabled deaf community.”

Pennycott also confided a secret, revealing: “Krish Bassi, who plays Khaled, has some great music on his phone and we discovered it could be connected to my cochlear implant via Bluetooth. So, when you’re watch­ing some scenes when I’m looking professional, I’m actually listening to Hamilton.”

Eloise Pennycott at the RTS Midlands premiere
(Credit: Vivienne Bailey)

Funny and fresh, the BBC Three and iPlayer drama Phoenix Rise is a fantastic Midlands success story, promoting talent from the region and winning an RTS Midlands Scripted award last year.

It follows a group of misfits and excluded students given a second chance in mainstream education. Forty episodes have been filmed in Coventry to be screened in four series over two years, with the fourth series dropping later this year and hopes of more.

The young actors are almost all from the Midlands, while the older cast includes Lauren Crace, Paul Nicholls, Wendi Peters and, new for series 3, Fleur East as music teacher Miss Meesha.

The X Factor star caused a stir among the starstruck cast. Tara Webb, who plays musically talented Rani, said: “Working with Fleur was so cool. I mean, I made a pipe-cleaner worry doll of her when I was nine! I was really nervous about the singing scenes, but Fleur really helped my confidence.”

Series 3 ends with a Battle of the Bands at the Cov Rocks music festival and the soundtrack is composed by unsigned Midlands artists.

Co-creator Perrie Balthazar explained: “I used to go to a lot of raves in Coventry and my mum was into ska music, so I know the city’s strong music history and we wanted it to be the heartbeat of the show. Music brings a lot, sometimes when characters can’t say anything. It heightens emotion.”

She added: “We hired all our supporting artists from local schools and as many regional crew as possible, although that’s part of the problem – people have had to move away so there are only so many people here who can do these jobs.”

Co-creator Matt Evans added: “It’s important for kids to see filming taking place and all the roles that are available, behind the camera as well as in front. It’s good for kids to see that it’s within reach. Careers departments are getting better – mine told me to work in a library if I wanted to be a writer.”

The Phoenix Rise premiere was held on 22 May at the Mockingbird Cinema, Birmingham. It was a co-production between RTS Midlands and BBC Studios.

You are here