Less Remembered 1980s Children’s Programmes #1: Hold Tight

Our first of many posts on children’s television programming of the 1980s

1982 called East of the M60 HQ just now. It was looking for a copy of Ronco’s Breakout album and wondered why King Trigger’s The River didn’t get the UK chart position it deserved. Subsequently, some person in Preppy attire came around with this weird device. It was a primitive computer with rubber keys, a portable cassette recorder, Kempston joystick interface and an audio tape.

A thirty-something female attired as a Sloane Ranger came and told me to type ‘LOAD “alton”‘ but the dreaded B, N, M and Symbol Shift keys were being sluggish as usual. Then, 15 minutes later, mug of Yorkshire Tea and an ‘R Tape Loading Error’ message later, it returned these results:

  • Programme: Hold Tight;
  • Launch Date: Monday 13 September 1982;
  • Last Episode: Wednesday 23 September 1987;
  • Key Presenters:  Bob Carolgees, Barbie Wilde, Pauline Black, Sue Robbie;
  • Other Information: special final edition on Wednesday 04 November 1987;
  • Produced by: Granada Television.
  • Signature Tunes: Your, Bad Manners (1982 – 86 episodes); Where The Action Is, Westworld (1987).

*                           *                           *

Granada Television had a fine tradition of being on the pulse with popular music trends. Besides giving The Beatles their first TV gig (Scene at 6.30) and showing The Sex Pistols on So It Goes, it also did a good line in child friendly pop music programming. In the 1970s, there was Lift Off With Ayshea and Get It Together. For the very young, there was also A Handful of Songs and Atarah’s Music.

In 1982, a year after Get It Together ended its run, Granada wanted a rival to BBC’s Cheggers Plays Pop for Children’s ITV. Whereas Keith Chegwin’s programme was filmed in New Broadcasting House, Oxford Road, Manchester, Granada Television opted for an outdoor location. In this case, Alton Towers – the ‘must visit’ amusement park of the 1980s (and for many people, still the dog’s sphericals).

1982 – 1986 episodes

Hold Tight began on the 13 September 1982, on a Monday. Its first presenter was Pauline Black, late of Selector. She was accompanied by Bob Carolgees and Spit The Dog. As well as guest acts, the centrepiece of the programme was a Snakes and Ladders style board with 18 squares. Junior school children would try and reach the top square before their rivals. There was also word puzzles albeit with a literal twist – trying to find each letter whilst on the Corkscrew ride. (The ‘Elf ‘n’ Safety brigade’ would have a field day these days!)

Teams would comprise of five schoolchildren, two teams of five with one team per school within Granadaland, and possibly a few other ITV regions. The prize for their collective efforts would be free reign of Alton Towers. In other words, as many rides as you want for free. (‘Rubber Dinghy Rapids me bro…’).

Other presenters included Janette Beverley, who would also be Michael Le Vell’s off-screen wife for 25 years, Sue Robbie and Alison Holloway. Sue Robbie was familiar to most 1980s viewers from First Post, Connections and the schools programme Scientific Eye. She would also do continuity for Granada Television and co-host Saturday morning show TX with Tony Slattery. Alison would later present more mature game shows like Perception in 1989 and be better known among some as an ex-wife of Jim Davidson.

Besides the games, another main fixture of Hold Tight was its musical guests. So much so that the 1987 series nixed the games and became a plain music programme aimed at junior school children. It enjoyed a seven episode pilot run in 1982 which was doubled to fourteen episodes in 1983.

Musical Guests:

1982 (Mondays):

  • 13 September: Bad Manners, My Girl Lollipop;
  • 20 September: Toyah, Ieya;
  • 27 September: Haysi Fantayzee, Shoofly Love/The Three Courgettes, Substitute;
  • 04 October: Depeche Mode, Leave In Silence/Toto Coelo, Mucho Macho;
  • 11 October: Shakin’ Stevens, Give Me Your Heart Tonight and Boppity Bop;
  • 18 October: Natasha, The Boom Boom Room;
  • 25 October: Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Jackie Wilson Said.

1983 (Tuesdays):

  • 26 July: Musical Youth, Tell Me Why/The Thompson Twins, Watching;
  • 02 August: Paul Haig, Never Give Up/Altered Images, Bring Me Closer (?);
  • 09 August: The Farmers Boys, For You/David Grant, Watching You Watching Me;
  • 16 August: Depeche Mode, Everything Counts/Kim Wilde, Love Blonde;
  • 23 August: Dreams, 17 Electric/H2O, Just Outside Of Heaven;
  • 30 August: Kajagoogoo, Big Apple (?)/Thorn/The Cherry Boys, Falling/Paul Young, Come Back and Stay;
  • 06 September: Classix Nouveau, Forever And A Day, Pookiesnackenburger, Pudgy Boy;
  • 13 September: Big Country, Chance/Toyah, Rebel Run;
  • 20 September: Endgames, Love Cares/Nick Heyward, Blue Hat For A Blue Day;
  • 27 September: The Lotus Eaters, You Don’t Need Someone New/The Truth, A Step In The Right Direction;
  • 04 October: Ralph McTell, Zoo Zoo Zoo/Roman Holliday, Motor Mania;
  • 11 October: The Belle Stars, The Entertainer/Cruella de Ville, Gypsy Girl;
  • 18 October: Naked Eyes, Voices/Passion Puppets, Promises Promises;
  • 25 October: Musical Youth, Never Gonna Give You Up/Pookiesnackenburger, Pudgy Boy/Paul YoungCome Back and Stay.

In the final episode of 1983’s run, Musical Youth would not only perform, they would also compete against their old school, Duddeston Manor. 1984 would see the programme move to its more familiar Wednesday slot.

1984 (Wednesdays):

  • 25 July: Ultravox, Lament;
  • 01 August: Tracey Ullman, Sunglasses;
  • 08 August: Captain Sensible, More Snakes Than Ladders;
  • 15 August: Spandau Ballet/Matt Bianco;
  • 22 August: Captain Sensible;
  • 29 August: King Kurt;
  • 04 September: Tony Hadley;
  • 12 September: Bananarama;
  • 19 September: Chas ‘n’ Dave/Bronski Beat;
  • 26 September: The Bluebells, Cath/Nick Heyward, Warning Sign;
  • 03 October: Swan’s Way/Chiefs of Relief;
  • 10 October: Midge Ure/The Adventures;
  • 17 October: Spandau Ballet/King.

1985 (Wednesdays):

  • 21 August: Hipsway/Bananarama;
  • 28 August: King;
  • 04 September: Madness/The Promise;
  • 11 September: Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy/Tobruk;
  • 18 September: Simply Red/Jaki Graham, Round and Round (?);
  • 02 October: The Thompson Twins (interview)/Fine Young Cannibals, Johnny Come Home (?);
  • 09 October: Shannon/Surfing Dave;
  • 16 October: The Damned, Is It A Dream?/Graham Fellows;
  • 23 October: Prefab Sprout, When Love Breaks Down/Total Contrast.

1986 (Wednesdays):

  • 10 September: Hollywood Beyond, What’s The Colour of Money?/Bucks Fizz;
  • 17 September: The Communards, Don’t Lead Me This Way (?)/Millie Scott, Automatic (?);
  • 24 September: Drum Theatre/Frank Sidebottom;
  • 01 October: We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, Love Is The Slug/Two Nations;
  • 08 October: Screaming Blue Messiahs, Wild Blue Yonder (?)/Amazulu;
  • 15 October: Erasure, Sometimes (alternate version)/The Woodentops;
  • 22 October: Talk Talk/Swing Out Sister, Break Out;
  • 29 October: Smiley Culture/The Christians;
  • 05 November: Jaki Graham, Breaking Away (?)/Andrew Caine;
  • 12 November: Lone Justice, Shelter/Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Boat to Bolivia/Mark Rodgers (50% of Hollywood Beyond);
  • 19 November: The Damned, Anything/Owen Paul, One World;
  • 26 November: Buddy Curtess and the Grasshoppers/The Ward Brothers;
  • 03 December: The Housemartins, Caravan of Love (and interview)/The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Shirt of Blue;
  • 10 December: Hold Tight Special: The Housemartins (live production).

The Housemartins closed the 1986 series in what would be the last series under the original format. They would return for a special live production at the City Lites night club in Farnworth on the 10 December.

1987 episodes

The competitive element was ditched in favour of more musical guests and interviews. Presenters Bob Carolgees, Sue Robbie, Pauline Black and Janette Beverley would be replaced by Jonathan Kydd and Barbie Wilde. The Bad Manners signature tune Your would be replaced by the appropriately titled Where The Action Is by Westworld. As with episodes from 1984 onwards, the 1987 series would be shown on Wednesdays.

Musical Guests:

  • 01 July: Westworld (interview)/Trouble/The Christians, Hooverville (plus interview)/(advertised though not on) Mel and Kim;
  • 08 July: Swing Out Sister, Failed By A Smile (plus interview)/The Weather Prophets/Bananarama, I Heard A Rumour (plus interview);
  • 15 July: Tendencies, Possessed to Skate/Iggy Pop, Isolation/Black, Sweetest Smile (plus interviews with all three guests);
  • 22 July: David Grant/Wet Wet Wet, Sweet Little Mystery (?)/Apple Mosaic;
  • 29 July: Stephen Remmler, I Don’t Go To USA/That Petrol Emotion, Swim/Danny Wilson, Mary’s Prayer (plus interviews with all three guests);
  • 05 August: Jessie Rae/The B52s, Wig (plus interview)/52nd Street;
  • 12 August: Salvation Sunday, Heart In Motion (?)/David Rudder/Climie Fisher;
  • 19 August: Cliff Richard, Some People (plus interview)/Total Contrast/The Man From Del Monte;
  • 26 August: The Go Betweens, Bye Bye Pride/Hindsight, Lowdown/Deacon Blue, (I Wish You Would) Make My Telephone Ring (plus interviews with all three guests);
  • 02 September: Johnny Hates Jazz, I Don’t Want To Be A Hero/Thomas Lang, Me and Mrs Jones/Hue and Cry, Strength To Strength  (plus interviews with all three guests);
  • 09 September: Public Image Limited, Seattle/Black, Wonderful Life/The Descendants, One Body/The Bodines, Slipslide   (plus interviews with all four guests);
  • 16 September: The Proclaimers/TOT/Broken English;
  • 23 September: The Christians/Miaow/Pepsi and Shirlie.

1987 Hold Tight Special (04 November 1987):

Hold Tight’s last hurrah was probably a cheap and cheerful collection of clips from the 1987 series as the guest list details:

  • Pepsi and Shirle;
  • Wet Wet Wet;
  • Bananarama;
  • Cliff Richard;
  • Johnny Hates Jazz;
  • Black;
  • The Christians;
  • Broken English;
  • Danny Wilson;
  • The B52s;
  • Iggy Pop.

In 1988, Hold Tight ran its course. In its once regular Wednesday slot a year on was a rerun of Children of the Dog Star. On the following Wednesday, it was replaced by another episode of Emu’s World. Then another episode of Children of the Dog Star the week after. It seemed as if there was no room for a child friendly popular music programme on Children’s ITV. To misquote Rod Hull and a few other children inside The Pink Windmill, there was somebody else at the door.

MTV.

Shortly after Mary’s Prayer was played on Hold Tight, Music Television’s European channel was launched on the 01 August 1987 in cable television owning households and on decoders receiving the Eutelsat 1 family of satellites. Pop videos became a cheaper option than busing a few live performers to northern Staffordshire, and a popular one at that. Music television programming was about to change forever; though mainstream popular music programming would be affected, niche formats held and continue to hold their own today.

Today, children’s programming no longer appears on mainstream channels. What would have got up to 20 million viewers at one time is likely to be seen by 200,000 on CITV, CBBC or Nickelodeon. Or on the internet. There’s even music channels for younger viewers on digital satellite and cable. But nowhere for schools to compete against others on a giant Snakes and Ladders board. With Bob Carolgees. Plus Spit The Dog, and the strains of Bad Manners or Westworld at about twenty past four in the afternoon (where Tipping Point happens to reside these days).

The seven year old me would sooner have the Rubber Dinghy Rapids over the giant Penny Falls machine any day.

S.V., 21 October 2013.

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