It's A Miners Knockout 1978
British Domestic Series

Presenter: Stuart Hall
Referees: Arthur Ellis and Mike Swann

Scoregirls: Pam Nolan, Dinah May and Debra Windass

Games Deviser and Designer: Stuart Furber

Production Team
Alan Wright
Alan Walsh

Engineering Manager:
Geoff Lomas

Sound:
John Drake

Producer: Cecil Korer

Director: Geoff Wilson

A BBC North West Production

GB

It's A Miners Knockout 1978

Spring Special

Event Staged: Wednesday 29th March 1978
Venue: The Tower Circus, The Tower, Blackpool, Lancashire, England

Transmission:
BBC1 (GB):
Friday 14th April 1978, 8.15-9.00pm

Winners' Trophy presented by: Keith Chegwin, of The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

Teams: England v. Scotland v. Wales

Team Members included:
England (E):
Arthur Gore;
Scotland (S): Minnie Gilphinnan, Ian Morton, David Whiteman;
Wales (W): Roy Philpott, Glyn Shaw, Christine Thomas.

Games: The Giants' Tag Race, The Horseman on the Flying Trapeze, The Coal Trucks, Water Carrying Apes, Building and Floating Rafts, The Human Pyramid (on a raft) and Barrel Boats and Rope Ladders;
Marathon: Bringing in the Coal;
Jokers: Shields on Poles.

Game Results and Standings

Result

 Team

Points

Final Scoreboard

1st
1st
3rd

 E • England
 W • Wales
 S • Scotland

23
23
14

The Venue

The recording venue for this special programme was in the popular British seaside resort Blackpool in The Tower Circus Ring at the base of the world famous Blackpool Tower, nestled between its four legs. The circus is lavishly decorated, in common with similar Victorian era attractions, and opened to the public on 14th May 1894. The circus has run there ever since, even surviving a potential closure in 1990 thanks to a surge of public support in favour of its continuation. The space is not a particularly large one, certainly not by IAK or JSF standards, and for this reason, the games played were generally very simple and only involved a small number of players at a time. Occasionally, the games even spilled over into the public seating area in the auditorium, but this simply added to the fun. The arena at The Tower Circus had a surprise in store for the audience and teams. During Games 1-4 it was as you would expect, a circus ring, but from Game 5 onwards, the ring descended and water poured in from a hidden 35,000 imperial gallon tank, turning it into a pool with a depth of 4 foot 6 inches. The Tower Circus is one of only four circus rings remaining in the world that has this remarkable facility. Without a doubt it was one of the most technically sophisticated venues ever used for It's A Knockout. It would later be employed as the regular venue for It's A Knockout spin-off series Anything Goes in 1984 and 1985.

Memories of It's A Miners Knockout

This special It's A Knockout event was organised as a result of an approach by T. Leslie Jackson, an ex-BBC producer who was in the late 1970s running The National Union of Mineworkers' headquarters. Producer Cecil Korer remembers: "Jackson had approached me a couple of times to use miners just as we had used the firemen from Bridlington in the early days. The trouble was that it would have to be all-male teams, so no way could we do that." Korer struck upon the idea of a miners' special when Jackson approached him in 1977, striking the deal that while all the male team members would be miners, the female competitors could either be workers in Coal Board administration or be miners' relations.

Presenters, Officials and Production Team

The presentation of the trophy to the two winning teams was made by a young 21-year old Keith Chegwin from BBC TV’s The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. Unfortunately, the BBC only had one trophy, though Chegwin promised another one would be organised so the teams didn't have to fight over it. Keith would return to present the IAK spin-off series Anything Goes, staged entirely in the same Tower Circus location, in 1984 and 1985, before inheriting the presenter's role of It's A Knockout proper in 1999 when he fronted the revamped Channel 5 series of the programme.

Additional Information

Rather than opening with the regular It's A Knockout theme, Bean Bag by Herb Alpert, this It's A Miners Knockout special started with the song Heigh-Ho from Walt Disney's 1937 animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The majority of the team members were miners, but some (particularly the women competitors) were not associated with The National Coal Board other than by being related to miners.

The somewhat cramped circus ring location caused something of a logistical problem with the Marathon, which involved three team members (two male, one female) wearing vacuum-formed miner's heads in pith helmets and oversized foam boots. Each competitor had to carry a sack of coal across from the base of one set of auditorium stairs to the next, where the male team members had to climb up a metal-framed colliery construction and bring the coal sacks to the 'surface'. To reach the colliery, team members had to clamber in their big boots with one foot on the raised ring surround and the other at ground level. The trouble was (or wasn't, depending upon your point of view!) that this meant that team members would regular tread on or fall into audience members in the front row. Presenter Stuart Hall suggested that the audience should know better than to sit at the front at It's A Knockout!

Audience members included Joe Gormley (1917-1993), then the President of the National Union of Mineworkers. He had the good sense not to sit in the front row!

The Marathon also introduced a 'mobile scoreboard', which in reality was scoregirl Pam Nolan wearing the scoreboard in the style of a sandwich board. Never has an It's A Knockout scoreboard looked so delectable!

Each team played their Joker strategically on the games with two teams, meaning they were guaranteed 4pts for a 2nd place finish rather than 2pts for a 3rd. Unusually, all three teams won their Joker games.

The final result of this competition was a draw. The English team would have won outright were the Scottish team not disqualified on the final game. England had won the game, guaranteeing the 3pts they needed to win. This meant the Welsh had to finish 2nd to draw level in the competition, but they were pipped at the post by the Scots. When Arthur Ellis announced the points, he surprised everyone by saying that as the girl at the top of the ladder had reached down to be touched by her male partner, rather than waiting for him to reach to touch her, before they descended the rope ladder, the team was disqualified and relegated to 3rd place. This promoted the Welsh to 2nd place and a joint competiton win along with their English counterparts.

The end credit sequence for this programme was changed before broadcast. On the day of recording, a caption roller was utilised to run the credits against scenes of the circus ring location, but the roller mechanism kept sticking and wouldn't roll smoothly. A post-production edit session was booked and a fresh set of titles were added over the new background of a saucy seaside postcard.

Made in Colour • This programme exists in the BBC Archives

 

JSFnetGB Series Guide pages researched by
Alan Hayes, David Hamilton, Neil Storer, Christos Moustakas, Philippe Minet,
Sébastien Dias, Ischa Bijl, Paul Leaver and JSFnet Websites