9.30am on Saturday, 2 October 1976, the face of Saturday morning
television changed forever as the BBC launched The Multi-Coloured Swap
Compared to the normal menu that had been used (see Before
the 'Swappie') this was new and radical. A live three-hour (OK, 2¾
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
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
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
Swap Shop ended after six years of swapping and fun on 27 March
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.