This is the Swap Shop feature that was in this copy of the Radio Times, and
it includes most of the pictures used in the article.
Apologies for any typos - it's a long article!
Saturday 9.30 am BBC1
The Swap Shop is back in business this week, with Noel Edmonds in the studio,
Keith Chegwin out and about with the Swaporama, and plenty of guests, old and
new. Madeleine Kingsley introduces them.
TEN YEARS AGO he was just the Essex headmaster's son who'd turned down two
university places and was proving rather good as a remedial reading teacher of
seven-year-olds. Today this former 'sir' must be on first-name terms with almost
every television-viewing child in the country, and his bearded face, full of
sincere, look you-in-the-eye charm, is even known in Knightsbridge.
'With Multi-Coloured Swap Shop my first really
long running TV spot,' observes Noel Edmonds, 'my fan following suddenly
expanded like stretched elastic – far beyond the “pop” age range that tune
into my Radio 1 show.'
From the elderly end of this wider spectrum he brings
out the anecdote of a be-minked dowager encountered in the Harrods perfumery.
She was plainly no devotee of Noel Edmonds, DJ, but broke off from her purchases
to hail him in admiration: 'Oh good afternoon, Mr Swap Shop Man!'
By reputation, Edmonds is something of a workaholic. Besides the Radio 1 commitments which lure him
from this bed at 5.0 am every weekday, there is a regular broadcast for the
BBC's World Service. There are numerous personal appearances plus his daily
workout in a West End gym. A year ago he was offered the role as Swap Shop's front man.
No one then had the least idea what sort of programme the new Saturday morning show
would prove to be: 'We might have all fallen on our knees,' says Edmonds.
'Unpredictability, the spontaneity that could have proved to be disastrous,
turned out to be our greatest strength.'
To some small viewers the opportunity for direct contact with Noel appears to bring
him out from behind the glass and into their very living rooms. Chatting to one
small girl, Noel discovered she was actually watching him talking to her on the
phone. 'And can you see me waking to you?' he asked. 'Yes,' came the awed reply:
'and I'm waving back. Can't you see me?'
Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Can I help you?' This bright response from the
programme's ten volunteer switch-board operators was actually heard by up to a
thousand callers every Saturday morning during last year's run. 'But,' says Noel
Edmonds, 'it's only possible to include about 30 in a show.'
Over the series, it seems that a grand total of 20,000 calls were taken and, even
afterwards, they kept on coming in. A story told by one BBC Engineer relates
how, weeks after the Swap Shop set had been dismantled, he was setting up
a phone-in switch-board for Prime Minister Jim Callaghan. When the phone rang he
picked it up and a schoolboy voice was heard to wonder: 'Is that the Swap
It was obvious that such an exceptional volume of calls flooding into a single
telephone number could cause telecommunicative confusing. But, since the last
series, Post Office whizzpersons have been
working to come up with a number that is
totally dissimilar to any other. It's 01-811 8055.
Besides the phone calls, 800,000 postcards
flooded in to the Swap Shop office at TV Centre, and it's
reckoned, more that 45,000 swaps were successfully concluded either by
phone or live on Swaporama. Rumour has it that such was the enthusiasm
for Swap Shop that junior sports fixtures has to be rescheduled
through the winter. In some areas it's even reported that the great
institution, the Saturday Mornings Pictures, was being moved to the afternoon.
Small wonder that Swap Shop received the Rediffusion Star Award
for the Best Children's Entertainment shown last year.
The idea of linking one gland slam Saturday
morning programme with star guests, pop music, cartoon and news, with an
open swap forum came originally from producer Rosemary Gill. 'We wanted
a programme,' she says, 'that absolutely anybody could join in. As long
as they had something, either goods and chattels, ideas or simply chat,
FRANCES OMMANEY was one of the first volunteer to be selected to answer
incoming calls. Requests to work on Swap Shop from employees all
overthe BBC have built up a 100-strong waiting list for the job. One of the
things she likes best about the programme use of the casual friendliness of
the studio atmosphere. 'There's a feeling that any moment some unexpected
hilarity might occur.'
She recalls some classic calls: 'like some of the
75-year-old lady who phoned in to offer herself as a surrogate granny. And
the small boy who wanted to swap his big sister for
Lesley Judd. I was also lucky enough to take the call from the girl who
chose the winning name for Noel's friendly monster (Posh Paws) on the very
first programme. She got through right at the end of the half-hour set for
the competition but the name was so good (it's an anagram of Swap
Shop) that I knew she must be in with a chance.'
Fred, the tangerine diplodocus, and his mysterious
mate Posh Paws, the couple tyrannosaurus rex, who was spotted in a museum
exhibition of anatomical soft toys, were then invited to join Noel Edmonds
in the Swap Shop studio.
Here they're drawn by Matthew of Highgate, London,
aged six-and-a-half, who was particularly pleased with his rendering of Posh
Paws. He's a nice bright colour and not a difficult shape to draw. I
sketched him in pencil and then outlined him in black felt-tip after I'd
coloured him in. I drew him twice so I'd get him perfect. It took me about
ten minutes and afterwards I drew a few more Posh Paws for fun. No,' he adds
wisftfully, 'we haven’t talked about prehistoric monsters at school yet,
only Victorians, castles and the Queen.'
Though his role in Swap
Shop is utterly vital it would not be quite true to describe Eric as 'a
familiar face'. There he is every week, lowering the familiar bubble with
correct competition answers down to Noel Edmonds and his guest, yet he is so
shy no one can honestly claim to have had a good look at him. It's plain
Eric has a good sense of humour (through somewhat whimsical) for he
occasionally changes the
competition bubble for a grass skirt, a giant egg bearing a gull (this was
lowered when Clare Francis, the girl sailor, was picking the winner) or a basket
of flowers. Children's drawings have depicted Eric variously as a bionic bucket,
a robot and a bionic 'airy monster, but he is undoubtedly human because he sent
Louise Jameson, a guest star, a Valentine and is know to be partial to a cheese
sandwich or two. So far no one has captured a more revealing glimpse of Eric
that artist Tony Hart who has caught (below) that celebrated check cap and the
famous pink socks.
'Swapping.' Says Rosemary
Gill, 'seemed to us an eminently useful and practical exercise for children.
Toys, games, books and records have become so expensive and, after a short while
when you've enjoyed your new possession hugely, you find yourself longing for
something else. We have invariably found that would-be swappers know precisely
what they're looking for and the value of what they're offering.'
There have been some
truly amazing swap requests. There was the girl who offered her doll's house for
a set of hi-fi headphones, the child who was willing to part with three LPs for
25 old pennies and, most mystifyingly of all, the boy who wanted to swap his
Liverpool football bag for a Millwall one.
One of the most
self-possessed to write in was 16-year-old Liz Story from Westcott, Surrey,
who made her television debut when she was nine by winning a Blue Peter
competition to design a dress. She decided that 'a couple of fashion ideas might
not come amiss'. She does not, she says, have a great deal of money to spend on
her clothes, and is 'hopeless' with a sewing machine. But, when it comes to
altering existing garments or improvising extra bits and pieces for her wardrobe
from cheap, everyday materials, she is extraordinarily gifted.
COLLECTOR'S CORNER on Swap
Shop has thrown up an enormous variety of enthusiasts and experts right
across the country. About 500 specialist collectors wrote in about their
treasures. A 12-year-old in
Cheshire was dying to increase his supply of gas masks. And another boy from Purley
wrote in to say that he was trying to collect road signs. He had contacted his
local council and a man had come round with a sign.
You do not, of course,
have to have a wildly cerebral collection to appear on Swap Shop.
11-year-old Paul Smith from Harlington showed the pigs (he's now got 85) that
he's been collecting since he was tiny and became obsessed with the Three Little
Hamblin from South Wales only began collecting plastic carrier bags six months ago, but she already has
120 with she keeps in a suitcase and will not use for shopping for the fear that
they might get broken. She has bags from Germany and France and,
if she can appear on Swap Shop, she longs to receive more bags with
animal pictures which she'll exchange for a game called Campaign 'because it's
too difficult and we don't understand the rules.'
But if one had to choose
a king among collectors the title would have to go to Kevin Brown of Isleworth
who appeared on Swap Shop with his collection of
tropical shells. Since he
was on the programme Kevin has taken part in the first British Shell Collectors'
Competition. He won not only the junior prize but also the senior award for the
most outstanding exhibit. There are, he says, over 400,000 different shell
species classified and more are being discovered all the time; 800 types exist
in Britain and a particularly rich place to search for them is Herm in the Channel Islands.
Among his own collection of 3,000 shells he has such marvelous items as a
trumpet shell, thorny oysters, tiger cowries, pearly nautilus and a triton
'I've spent a lot of time
in bed having operations on my legs and feet,' he says, 'so I've had plenty of
spare time to follow up my interests.'
IN HER appearances on Swap
Shop Delia Smith has helped to take the mystique out of cookbook catering,
and freely admits she has a tendency to muddle metric measures and burn the
toast like anybody else. She has chose these tasty scones (the recipe is from
her new book Delia Smith's Book of Cakes, Hodder & Stoughton, £4.95) as a special Saturday mid-morning filler.
Cheese crusted scones
6 oz self-raising flour (or 175 grams)
1 oz of butter (or 25 grams)
3 oz strong Cheddar cheese, finely grated (or 75 grams)
1 large egg
2 to 2½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon mustard powder
2 pinches Cayenne pepper
a little salt to taste
Pre-heat the oven to gas
mark 7 or 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Sift flour, mustard and salt into a
bowl with one pinch of
Cayenne. Rub in the butter until it's crumbly. Mix in all the grated cheese, except one
tablespoon. Beat the egg with two tablespoons of milk, add to the dry
make a soft dough. Roll out as evenly as possible to about ¾
inch thick (no thinner, warns Delia). Cut out 8 scones with a 2¼-inch pastry
cutter. Put them on a well greased baking sheet, brush the tops with the
remaining milk, sprinkle them with the rest of the cheese and Cayenne and
bake them on a high shelf for 15 to 20 minutes. Use an oven cloth to take
them out of the oven. Serve with lots of butter.
LOUISE JAMESON, whom
devotees of Dr Who will recognize at the lovely Leela, nearly missed her Swap
Shop guest appearance altogether. She had glandular fever, which at first
was wrongly diagnosed as measles. 'Can you imaging,' she asks, 'the cataclysm if
the entire Dr Who cast and production team has been plunged into
In fact, she did appear,
spot free, on Swap Shop a fortnight later then scheduled, feeling all the
brighter for the stack of get-well-soon cards viewers had sent in. Fan mail has
become quite a feature of her life these days: 'I've acquired some regular
pen-pals, mostly boys aged about 13, who write in to let me know their news.'
But the most entertaining
letter she received recently
came from the captain of HMS Naiad,
stationed off Plymouth. He sent word that his crew of 700 sailors were threatening mutiny unless she
agreed to come aboard and take grog with them. (She did.)
Save our owls
IT IS no exaggeration to
say the Graham Dangerfield, the BBC children's programme naturalist, is devoting
his entire life to the preservation of threatened wildlife. 'The late Armand
Denis,' he remembers, 'once said the future generations would curse us for the
vandalism with which, in one small century, we squandered the world's wildlife
which took 50 million years to perfect.' But that won't happen if Dangerfield
can help it.
On his breeding centre in
Hertfordshire he is caring for and breeding from 150 endangered species,
including of course, the injured owl (above) he brought to the Swap Shop
studio: 'The British barn owl is now so rare that it ranks with the osprey and
the penalty for shooting one is £100 and three months' imprisonment. If we can
breed them at the rate of 200 a year for liberation we shell be
very significant towards Britain's bird population.
'What we are able to do here is to take in a
wounded mother owl who might have produced six babies a year, and
provide the conditions for her to treble her rate of reproduction, so
that eventually she'll be contributing 18 owls a year for liberation
back into their natural habitat. We are also currently producing 300
English harvest mice a year as well as 66 servals [small cheetah-like
wild cats] – more that the entire population of the world's 2,000 zoos
put together.' For the last five years, too, Dangerfield has actually
bred form an Asian golden eagle each year: a species which has never
before reproduced in captivity.
A REFRIDGERATED Saturday morning in the Cardiff Arms Park last October.
Enter one fresh-faced, 19-year-old, roving Scouse reporter: Keith Chegwin. Shivering. That first Swap Shop outside broadcast was, he
recalls, 'like throwing a party and wondering if your guest will actually turn
up.' Happily 200 swappers gathered within 20
minutes, and hordes more could be
seen converging from all corners of South Wales
, bearing aloft their kites, puzzles and other play paraphernalia. 'Cheggers,'
filled with sudden jubilation, threw aside his nervously composed script and
sallied forth to make his television name as the thoroughly genial, slightly
nutty ad-libbing master of Swaporama ceremonies.
A few weeks later, in Salford and Northampton, Cheggers was attracting crowds that topped the 2,000 mark.
Such is his natural
boyishness that Cheggers appears to have been lifted lock, stock and Hornby
engine from the controls of his electric train set, straight on to the Swaporama
rostrum. In fact, he's been in show business from the precocious age of ten,
when he won a Rhyl talent contest, dazzling his seaside audience with a
heartfelt rendition of 'Let's Pretend'. His knees were knocking and he sported
short green schoolboy trousers, a pink shirt and a dickey-bow.
Young Keith was spotted
and signed up by a local impresario to sing at some Liverpudlian charity shows,
and small-time clubs, where, for a while, he continued to vamp the female
element of the
audience with numbers like 'Red
Roses for a Blue Lady'. 'I fancied myself as a small, smart crooner. Des
O'Connor was my idol.'
He moved on to a London stage school, having
just failed to make it to the West End stage (being only 11, he was
refused a licence) where he has been rehearsing as Ginger Rogers's
co-star, no less, in the musical Mame. But junior film buffs will
remember him best as one who, still in his early teens, appeared as a
regular star of the Saturday morning cinema. Apart from his
horse-to-tree swinging stunts as Robin Hood, he is probably best-known
as the start of Egghead's
Robot, a Children's Film Foundation movie that scooped up awards for six
It was, perhaps an Egghead wheeze that inspired
Keith Chegwin to write off to the BBC suggesting a Parkinson style
junior chat-show, chaired by . . . himself. 'They replied nicely,' he
recalls, 'saying no, but do come in and see us. I thought it was just
politeness of their part. So when producer Rosemary Gill asked if I
would like to present part of Swap Shop, I was dumbstruck. Golly,
me heart nearly dropped out of me mouth.' •
Celebrating BBC Saturday Morning television since 1976