Rosemary Gill, formerly a member of the Blue Peter production team, was given the task of revitalising Saturday mornings and soon came up with a concept.
She remembered how schoolchildren loved to swap things (well, nice middle-class schoolchildren before Grange Hill showed you could nick stuff) and realised that by introducing swapping into a show she could make it interactive (ahead of her time was our Rosemary). Multi-Coloured Swap Shop was born. But who would present it?
Rosemary remembered that in the previous year Radio 1 DJ Noel Edmonds had presented Z-Shed, an afternoon show for kids which each week discussed a hot topic. She had found her star.
Originally the swap element was conceived as a way of showing off children's collections but soon the idea was extended and liberally applied to anything in the show, no matter if it didn't make sense. For example, John Craven of Newsround fame would each week present a 'News Swap', a topical story that would prompt a reaction from viewers. Examples included "Do newspaperboys get paid enough?" Luckily few questioned the lack of swapping in the slot, due to loveliness of John's jumpers and the weakness of his jokes.
The third member to join the team was a fresh-faced Keith Chegwin, who would go out and about with The Swaparama, which involved live swaps, famous and not-so-famous guests, local gymnastic groups and the like, plus lashings of screaming kids. Each week Noel would shout "Where are you Keith?" and a nation waited with bated breath to see if he was just down the road. Later Maggie Philbin joined Cheggers on the road and the pair fell in love, becoming the Posh and Becks of their day. Well, it was 1982.
Swap Shop also rescued one Delia Smith from the graveyeard shift. Fortunately, this was before Delia discovered the joys of fresh cranberries and the blood of the queen bat and so the local Co-Op didn't have to suffer hoards of disgruntled shoppers. Typically she taught viewers how to make such items as sausage rolls (cue Noel being a bit suggestive) with - gasp - ready made puff pastry.
Other members of the team included a stuffed purple Dinosaur named Posh Paws (that did little but sit on Noel's desk) and Igor, a black hairy hand that would pass things from behind the Swap Shop sofa. But it was Eric who was the surprise star of the show. Unseen, Eric lived in the studio rafters and used to winch down a plastic ball containing postcards for the prize pick. Such was his popularity that when the team were looking for a name for the statue given to the winners of the Swap Shop star awards, Eric was the natural choice.
With its mix of star guests, cartoons, viewer interaction and music the template was set for Saturday mornings, one that is still used today. No wonder that television insiders in 1999 voted it the most influential show ever.