About: Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

At 9.30am on Saturday, 2 October 1976, the face of Saturday morning television changed forever as the BBC launched The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop.

Compared to the normal menu that had been used (see Before the 'Swappie') this was new and radical. A live three-hour (OK, 2 hour...) programme with pop music, cartoons, live phone-ins, an outside broadcast and much more was ambitious and brave - but the BBC pulled it off and a new type of television was born.

Originally planned for 6 shows, little did we know at that point that Swap Shop would run for 6 years and a total of 146 editions. It would spawn it's own awards show,  two supergroups, several specials, four books and a top twenty hit single! It would also test the 1970s technology to the limits with, for example, music duets played in different parts of the country and live EuroSwaps from places such as Bruges.

With the Radio One Breakfast show host Noel Edmonds in the presenter's hot seat, a young and enthusiastic Keith Chegwin (best known by thousands for his Children's Film Foundation outings) out on the road with the 'Swaporama', and the Newsround front man, John Craven, brought in to add a little gravitas (and some awful jokes!) - the combination was perfect.

To balance things out just a little bit Maggie Philbin joined the team as the fourth presenter, debuting on the third programme of the third series (14 October 1978). She had a floating role, being either out with Keith on in the studio with Noel and John. Maggie was the butt of many of Noel's jokes, but she took them in her stride.

The show itself also had a number of characters - Posh Paws the purple dinosaur who sat on Noel's desk, Igor who's hairy hand we only ever saw, Lamb who popped up from under the desk in the last year of the show during a technical fault, and of course, Eric a mysterious never-seen person who lived up in the studio's roof and operated the large clear-plastic ball that had the competition entries in. The best look that anyone got of Eric was by artist Tony Hart who managed to sketch what he saw, but even then it didn't reveal that much.

The main concept of the show was based around swapping, and by brilliantly introducing an interactive element to the show, children could ring in and 'make a swap' - the idea being that they offered something they had for something they wanted. The best of these would go onto the 'Top Ten' Swap board. Or they if they were lucky enough to be in the area of the 'Swaporama' they could go along in person and swap something there. The third 'swap' was actually something that the celebrity guests would bring in as a prize - probably the most unusual swap was a huge cut-out camel that Mike Batt (who wrote the show's original theme) brought in!

Interestingly, the smallest number of correct answers received for a Swap was just one! The question? Well that was to say what the surname of 'Terry and June' was in the series of the same name - the answer was 'Medford'.

Swap Shop ended after six years of swapping and fun on 27 March 1982. The show played out rather appropriately with Brown Sauce's I Wanna Be a Winner. For many children, Saturday mornings were just not going to be the same ever again.


  Celebrating BBC Saturday Morning television since 1976