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Night Out at Swap Shop

(published in the HBA's On Air magazine and in the HRB magazine published in 2007)

On my show back in October 2006, I decided to celebrate a TV anniversary, which at that time seemed to have been totally ignored by the BBC.

Back in 1976, a revolutionary new show started on BBC1 on Saturday mornings.

30 years on, Swap Shop and all the programmes that have followed in that slot have been enjoyed by millions and produced some classic TV moments as well as influencing quite a few things we see on TV today.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, I played some classic clips and talked to special guests Maggie Philbin (Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore and Saturday Picture Show), Trevor and Simon (Going Live and Live and Kicking) and Mitch Johnson (voiceover on Live and Kicking) on my show. None of those I talked to were aware of any BBC show being planned so I genuinely thought that it had been forgotten or just ignored.

Not so! About a month later Martin, the person behind www.saturdaymornings.co.uk  told me that there were plans afoot by the BBC after all to celebrate the anniversary and sure enough, the details of “It Started with Swap Shop” were released a few days later.

After submitting some of my own memories of Saturday morning TV – Billy Connolly reading the top 10 board on Swap Shop, Mrs Thatcher being quizzed about nuclear bunkers on Saturday Superstore, Phillip Schofield and Emma Forbes cooking on Going Live, Trev and Simon’s mad sketches, the two bunnies getting very friendly under the hot studio lights… etc, – I found myself with a priority ticket for the show’s recording at the BBC in London in December 2006.

On arriving, the audience, were all presented with Swap Shop hats to wear and everyone had been asked to bring along items to swap with the celebrity guests. The original Swap Shop team of Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven were all reunited and the first half of the show was mainly about that programme, before moving on to the other shows with their presenters as guests.

There were also celebrity guests who have been part of Saturday morning TV in one way or another, including Johnny Ball trying to explain why he had brought a replica commode as a swap on one edition of Swap Shop!

Dame Edna Everage was on the phone from Australia and swapped a ticket to her Melbourne show for a copy of the song recorded by the Swap Shop team – remember Brown Sauce? Unfortunately, even though that was my swap, I wasn’t quite quick enough in raising my hand!

Delia Smith, who became a famous TV cook as a result of her Swap Shop appearances was also on the phone (“Delia or no Delia” joked Noel as he introduced her), while in the studio other guests included Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips who talked about the exercise routines she presided over on Saturday Superstore.

Those who have taken part as viewers were there as well. The person who grilled Margaret Thatcher on where she would be in the event of a nuclear war, the Take That fan who got a surprise performance in her front room, and the person who appeared on Swap Shop and did the Rubiks Cube in 37 seconds – the first time this had been done on TV.

The show tried to reflect all aspects of Saturday morning TV – from the funny with Trev and Simon’s mad sketches to the very moving with Michael Crawford talking about the dancers who had downs syndrome who had danced to “Music of the Night” on Going Live.

The show took nearly 3 hours to record, but the atmosphere in the studio was fantastic and all those who took part seemed to sense that and were quite openly enjoying themselves. Noel Edmonds himself seemed genuinely touched at the enthusiasm that the audience showed as he spoke to us after the standing ovation at the end and I hope that atmosphere came across when the programme was eventually shown. It is after all the studio atmosphere and the enjoyment of those taking part that has been such a strong part of the success of Saturday morning TV over the years.

That atmosphere actually continued even on the way home. It seemed like half of the audience were on the same train on the underground – all wearing their Swap Shop hats of course!


Basingstoke, GB
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