Do you remember the Radio 1 Roadshow?

Digital Content Producer, About the BBC

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Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first Radio 1 Roadshow, broadcast on Monday 23 July, 1973, from Newquay. The Roadshow was a mainstay of the stations summer output for over a quarter of a century. The premise was simple, take a Radio 1 DJ out of his/her studio for a week and get them to host their show live, in front of excited music fans in towns all over the UK.  A different DJ took the reins each week over the two month summer period and the truck visited over 40 venues, mainly coastal resorts, around the country.

Radio 1 Roadshow in Eastbourne 1977

The format grew to include musical guest appearances, as well as audience competitions such as ‘Bits and Pieces’ where contestants had to name as many songs as possible from snippets of the tracks, and ‘Smiley Mileys Mileage Game’ where to be successful, one had to guess how many miles the Roadshow truck had travelled from its last destination. The game was named after Tony ‘Smiley Miley’ Miles, leader of the support crew who travelled around with the DJs and who was involved from the beginning, providing the caravan for the first show in 1973.

Radio 1 DJ Mike Read (second from left) and his Roadshow crew pictured in 1981

So how did it all begin? The idea came from Radio 1 producer Johnny Beerling who later became controller of the station. Building on the successful Radio 1 Club, Beerling wanted to take the station around the UK to make sure it connected with its audiences up and down the country. He was kind enough to share his memories with us of that first Roadshow in Newquay:

"It was one of the most exciting days of my life when I launched the Radio 1 Roadshow at North Fistral Beach in Newquay before an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers, many of whom had been supping the local cider as they watched our sweating crew rigging the stage. 

The day had started badly as Alan Harris the engineer had not brought a long enough mains cable to reach from a local cafe from where we were to get our power. It took some delicate negotiations with the South West Electricity Board to purchase a new power cable and then we were off and running on a wonderful warm sunny day. Alan "Fluff" Freeman was the DJ who entertained the crowds for an hour before we went on air and after the show he stayed behind signing autographs for a couple of hours. 

Alan 'Fluff' Freeman gives one of his trademark points at a 1973 Radio 1 Roadshow

The show was a huge success from the off, though the schedule I had set was very demanding as the engineers had to derig everything then drive to the next site for the following day so they had very little sleep and for the following year we changed the broadcast time to lunchtime instead of tea time.

Little did I know when I devised it that the roadshow would continue running for something like 25years and entertain over 500,000 people a year. In the end it was a victim of its own success as it became too big a show to travel, big TV screens, live bands, satellite uplinks and more and more public address speakers and lots of security for crowd control made it a logistical nightmare.

What fun, like Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday but we did it for real and the reason it was so successful was that everyone involved loved working on it and that enthusiasm was shared with the audience on the beaches of the UK and those listeners at home." (- Johnny Beerling, former controller, BBC Radio 1)

Having pleased audiences for a number of years, the Roadshow came to an end in 2000 in favour of a number of one-day events around the country under the banner of One Big Sunday. These in turn have given way to Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which this year was held in Northern Ireland.

However, to a great many of us, the Radio 1 Roadshow was the sound of summer mornings, so let’s have a big cheer from the crowd and if you have any fond memories of the roadshow, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear them.

Jen Macro is Digital Content Producer, About the BBC website and blog.


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