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Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)
BBC1, 2/10/1976-27/3/1982
146 episodes, colour
ProducersRosemary Gill
 Crispin Evans
 Chris Bellinger
 Angela Sharp

Presenters: Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin, John Craven, Maggie Philbin

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Noel Edmonds and his team introduce nearly three hours of live Saturday morning entertainment and take viewers' calls.

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When in 1976 funding was first approved for a live Saturday morning children's show, Blue Peter's Biddy Baxter, Edward Barnes and Rosemary Gill discussed ways to link star guests, pop music and cartoons. Gill recalled how children loved to swap things: "We wanted a programme that absolutely anybody could join in. As long as they had something, either goods and chattels, ideas or simply chat, to exchange."

Gill became Swap Shop Editor and Radio 1 DJ Noel Edmonds its anchor. Edmonds had previously hosted teenage problem forum Z-Shed (1975) which included a live phone-in segment.

When the Swap Shop opened at 9.30am on 2 October 1976 the phone-in element initially caught viewers unawares, with calls slow to come in, but soon 1000 calls were being logged each Saturday with 30 callers getting live on air. Another innovation - the Swaporama open air event - was announced at the start of each show by Keith Chegwin. 200 children brought items to swap at Cardiff Arms Park rugby ground that first day, shot by Outside Broadcast cameras covering the rugby for Grandstand. Later Swaporamas welcomed crowds of 2000.

The earliest surviving edition (transmitted 4/12/76) is typical. Viewers called in with questions for Noel or to swap on the Top Ten board. This allowed children to barter with the nation - one received 357 postcards after his swap aired. Formula 1 star James Hunt and Softly, Softly: Task Force actors Frank Windsor and Norman Bowler took viewers' calls and offered competition prizes. Keith swapped from St Helens rugby ground alongside members of rock group ELO (a pre-recorded performance of their latest single was also aired). Classical music was regularly included - piano student Alison Baker played Chopin in the studio. More young viewers' interests featured - from gymnastics to war memorabilia collecting. A film report from Newsround host John Craven highlighted the lack of children's play areas. The show was entirely live, bar some recorded music sequences and a weekly half hour of cartoons.

Swap Shop was an established success by the end of its first run. Series two earned a Radio Times cover feature, while the third welcomed 'roving reporter' Maggie Philbin. The format stayed relatively unchanged over six years, although pop videos increasingly featured. 146 editions welcomed 450 different guests, aired 5,850 calls and travelled 39,016 Swaporama miles.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Introduction (2:30)
2. Keith and his twin brother (7:20)
3. John Craven's News Swap (7:43)
Opening titles (1:05)
Craven, John (1940-)
Edmonds, Noel (1948-)
Murray, Gordon (1921-)
Children's TV in the 1970s
Saturday Morning TV