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About the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

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

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to EnlargeThe show was completely new, exciting and radical – and unlike anything that had ever been seen before on children’s television. The live three-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 only planned for six shows, Swap Shop eventually ran for six years and a total of 146 editions. It spawned its own awards show, two super-groups, 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, out on the road with the Swaporama; and the Newsround front man, John Craven, brought in to add a little gravitas (and some terrible jokes…), the combination was perfect. 

The only girl in the team, Maggie Philbin joined 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 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! 

The show had a number of other characters - Posh Paws the purple dinosaur who sat on Noel's desk; Igor, whose 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. 

Delia Smith also made regular appearances on Swap Shop showing Noel and viewers how to make an array of delicious recipes. 

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…

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