Those of us who are old enough to remember
going to the cinema on Saturday mornings can also probably remember why we
did so. The BBC Saturday mornings line up prior to 1976 had been a mixture
of bought in programmes, films, cartoon and some original programming.
Then again, the mixture of the cinema's cartoons, bought in serials and
old films wasn't a lot different - other than the ice lolly in the interval!
There had been various attempts by the BBC to make
entertainment based programmes, such as Whoosh!, and Zokko!
The latter was basically pre-recorded items linked with a pre-recorded
soundtrack - the absence of any presenter was quite a radical idea in
those days, but today this is common on many of the new channels that have
come to us through satellite and digital television.
In 1976 the BBC took the bold idea to
create a single programme for Saturday mornings aimed solely at children.
It was the first time that the timeslot had been seen in a way that
children would probably be more relaxed, and be more likely to only watch
parts of the programme
Creating the New Concept
Rosemary Gill, who had worked on programmes
such as Blue Peter, came up with the idea of basing the programme around
'swapping'. The idea of a 'swap' could be seen as far more as just
swapping physical items - the swap of information and ideas was equally
At first the programme was to have been
simply a presenter in a studio linking items for three hours. Then someone
had the idea to utilise the outside broadcast units that were already out
on the road for sporting events. This would make the whole programme seem
less London based and would create one of it's most popular items.
The BBC had run a live programme on Wednesday
afternoons in 1975 called Z Shed. This programme was fronted by the
then Radio 1 breakfast show host, Noel Edmonds. Although the Z Shed
doesn't exactly spring to the front of the memory or find itself
prominently in the history books, it did donate two things to the new
Saturday morning show - the host and the idea of a live phone-in. The
phone-in was to make the new show different from any other children's
programme as it would allow the viewers to call in and interact with the
show - whether it was to make a 'swap' or to talk to a celebrity.
So, the BBC went ahead with the new format,
and decided to put a series of 6 programmes together. By the time that the
new show called Multi-Coloured Swap Shop had found it's way into
the Radio Times, it had become 'A series of 12 programmes'. That took it
up to Christmas, then a further 8 shows were tagged on bringing the first
series total to 20.
The Radio Times entry from
Saturday, October 2 1976 didn't exactly give the
ground-breaking programme a huge build up, but after the first programme had aired, we knew that Saturday mornings were never going to be the same again...
Celebrating BBC Saturday Morning television since 1976