Less Remembered 1980s Children’s Programmes #3: The Untied Shoelaces Show

BBC Scotland’s early 1980s summertime treat

The fusion of popular music and children’s television programming has been a solid formula for public service and commercial broadcasters around the world. In the United Kingdom, its commercial potential was seen in programmes like Lift Off With Ayshea (Granada Television) and Saturday Scene (London Weekend Television). By the 1980s, Razzmatazz and Hold Tight! assumed that role on ITV.

If you go further back, the roots of popular music and children’s television owes a debt to the light entertainment tradition. Crackerjack (now revived on CBBC) exemplified this with a variety show style format.

In 1982, the scope for regional opt-outs on children’s television programmes was limited. We had another four years to go till that ceased on ITV (Television South West viewers watched Freeze Frame instead of Central Television’s The Saturday Show till 1986). Over on the other side, the BBC had (and still has) regional opt-outs – only for regional news and (in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland) for some programmes.

This is why Andi Peters, prior to signing off at The Broom Cupboard on weekdays said “Goodbye Northern Ireland” two minutes before Wales, Scotland and England switched over to Neighbours. Today, BBC Scotland has its own channel on Freeview, Freesat and Sky Digital. With this, there is no need for a wee opt-out on BBC One or BBC Two.

Before the BBC realised there was an audience for daytime television, the channel would sometimes close down till 1pm. On weekdays from 9am onwards, you would see schools programmes. Or cartoons during the holidays.

On the 02 August 1982, BBC Scotland launched a new children’s television programme. It had music, games, and a well-known DJ from Radio Clyde as its presenter. Known as The Untied Shoelaces Show, it was first aired at 10.30pm that Monday in 1982. For everybody else south of the Scottish border, Pages From Ceefax.

The programme

If you are familiar with 1980s Saturday morning television, The Untied Shoelaces Show was pretty similar to, say anything that would have gone out that decade. For example: phone-ins, mystery guests, and games. Unlike Saturday Superstore or Number 73, it had a live audience of children standing around the studio. It differed from its contemporaries by having Scottish pop and rock groups on the stage. All but one of its episodes were filmed in Studio A of BBC Scotland’s Glasgow studios.

Unlike its Saturday morning contemporaries, The Untied Shoelaces Show didn’t go out on a weekly basis from May to October, or November to April. It was first aired on the first week of August in 1982 with five consecutive episodes. The first episode was only half an hour long, whereas subsequent episodes were an hour long.

In 1983, there was another week-long run, again covering the first week of August from the Scottish Bank Holiday Monday date. The final episode of its ’83 run was presented from Aberdeen beach.

In 1984, it had a shorter run of three episodes and a slightly longer running time. Instead of its summer holiday time slot, these went out after Hogmanay. With no closedown or Pages From Ceefax on the 03 January, everybody else had 65 minutes of cartoons instead of Tiger Tim Stevens and Co. in Studio A. In Dukinfield instead of Dumfries, you got a rerun of Chock-a-Block, a Walt Disney special (More About Silly Symphonies) and another cartoon.

The crowning glory of its 1984 run was an 87 minute long Easter Special on the 21 April 1984. On Easter Saturday, there was an audience of 150 children who donated Easter Eggs to children in hospitals and homes. There was also a fashion show as well as the usual games and musical tomfoolery. This followed The Saturday Morning Picture Show, the Beeb’s standard summertime fare from BBC Manchester. Over in Mossley instead of Montrose, it was The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, a 1975 Norwegian stop-motion film. The British version had commentary by Murray Walker.

This was followed by another summer run, starting on the 06 August that same year. The second series of 1984 was a five episode run with a later start time (11.30 am). Olympic Grandstand took pride of place in its usual 10.30 am slot. With the Los Angeles games, its hour long episodes had an Olympian theme.

1982 transmission dates

  • Monday 02 August: 10.30 – 11.00 am;
  • Tuesday 03 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Wednesday 04 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Thursday 05 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Friday 06 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am.

Presented by Tiger Tim Stevens, co-presented by Tony Hollis and Beverly Hewitt.

1983 transmission dates

  • Monday 01 August: 10.30 – 11.00 am;
  • Tuesday 02 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Wednesday 03 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Thursday 04 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am;
  • Friday 05 August: 10.30 – 11.30 am.

Presented by Tiger Tim Stevens, co-presented by Tony Hollis and Beverly Hewitt. Shoelaces Girls: Edwina Lawrie and Blythe Brockett.

1984 transmission dates

  • Tuesday 03 January: 10.55 am – 12.00 pm;
  • Wednesday 04 January: 10.55 am – 12.00 pm;
  • Thursday 05 January: 10.55 am – 12.00 pm;
  • Saturday 21 April (Easter Special): 10.45 am – 12.12 pm;
  • Monday 06 August: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm;
  • Tuesday 07 August: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm;
  • Wednesday 08 August: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm;
  • Thursday 09 August: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm;
  • Friday 10 August: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm.

Presented by Tiger Tim Stevens, co-presented by Joe Austen and Rhoda Macleod. Also featuring Cilla Fisher and Sheila Grier.

Technical details

  • Aired on: BBC One Scotland;
  • Episodes: 14 x 60 minute episodes; one 30 minute episode; 3 x 65 minute episodes; one 87 minute episode;
  • Format: PAL colour, 4:3 ratio, mono;
  • Music: The Untied Shoelaces Song, T.T.S. Band (Tiger Tim Stevens);
  • Director: Nigel Shepherd;
  • Producer: Anne Somers.

Innovations

Before Going Live!‘s Starshot, The Untied Shoelaces Show had its own interactive game in Telepaint. Seen in its 1984 run, it was a primitive form of the Nokia phone classic Snake. Well, Snake as coded on a Dragon 32 with a green and very very very very dark green (which looks like black) screen. With Telepaint, telephone callers gave instructions to a player in the studio.

Another innovation was The Untied Shoelaces Show‘s penchant for championing Scottish musicians. If your favourite groups included Happy Families and Matt Bianco, you had both bases covered if you lived in Scotland. You could see your favourite Scottish band on The Untied Shoelaces Show and Matt Bianco on Saturday Superstore. Many of the bands may have received airplay on Radio Clyde or Northsound instead of Radio One’s playlist.

A (very incomplete) list of bands seen on The Untied Shoelaces Show:

  • Happy Families: Call Me Castro/Land of the Midnight Sun/Summer Indians;
  • The Dolphins: Chelsea Mornings/Tonight/Slow Down;
  • Let’s Go Native: Hard to Get/Getting Out/Kiss Love Goodbye;
  • Passionate Friends: Time Bandits;
  • The Revillos: Bongo Brain/She’s Fallen in Love With a Monster Man (formerly The Rezillos of Top of the Pops (the single, not the programme) fame);
  • Seventh Veil;
  • Private ID (seen on the Aberdeen Beach episode, TX Friday 05 August 1983);
  • Happy The Man.

There was also a creative spot known as Joe’s Bit. At that part of the programme, artist Joe Austen would teach its target audience how to draw and paint. A bit like Art Attack.

In the light entertainment tradition, The Untied Shoelaces Show had its own dance troupe. Known as The Shoelaces Dancers, this was introduced in the 1983 series. There was another spot known as The Mountain of Fun appeal, which was the charitable aspect of the show.

Whereas 01 811 8055 would be forever etched in the memory of ’70s and ’80s children, The Untied Shoelaces Show‘s number was slightly less memorable: 041 338 6161.

The presenters

Holding the show together was presenter Tiger Tim Stevens. Born in Easterhouse as James Gerard Dickson McGrory, he started out on Radio Clyde in 1974. He also had a brief stint as match announcer for Glasgow Celtic before being sacked for making a joke over Rangers’ early exit from the European Cup. His other television work was Scottish Television’s The Best Disco in Town. Part of STV’s music fest included the Scottish heats of The World Disco Dancing Championships.

In 1987, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Following his diagnosis, he carried on working for Radio Clyde. He began fundraising for MS charities and received an MBE for his charity work in 2006. This included setting up a satellite link from Greenburn School, East Kilbride, with a special school in Africa. For the Lanarkshire school which works with SEND pupils, some of which on the autism spectrum, he had raised over £10,000. A year later, he married Caroline Graham.

After 36 years, he left Radio Clyde on the 08 May 2010, after hosting his last show on Clyde 2.

Wearing a distinctive tiger striped outfit, he was supported by The Shoelaces Girls. In August 1983, they were Edwina Lawrie and Blythe Brockett. Edwina, Lulu’s younger sister by eleven years, travelled all the way up to Glasgow from London for the 1983 run. Shortly afterwards she joined TV-am to become the presenter of children’s pop-orientated programme Data Run.

She released two singles, though none of which charted. The first was a cover of Bye Bye Love. Then, dropping her second name, an original song by Nik Kershaw called Dark Glasses. Of particular note to the record collector, this was one of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s earliest productions.

The second Shoelaces Girl, Blythe Brockett, went on to act in Tutti Frutti (BBC Scotland, 1987) as Ruby and played a nurse in Winners and Losers (Scottish Television, 1989).

For 1984, Edwina’s replacement was Rhoda MacLeod. A year after, she joined Donnie Macleod, Cathy Macdonald, John Urquhart, Mairi Macinnes and Anna Murray in Dòtaman. With a run from the 17 October 1985 to the 08 December 2000, it holds the record for being the longest-running Scottish Gaelic children’s programme.

Also part of The Untied Shoelaces Show team was Joe Austen. He offered a quieter, creative side to the proceedings. Today he is one of the world’s foremost golf artists and formed a company which had Sir Richard Attenborough as the Company President.

Tiger Tim was also assisted by Tony Hollis and Beverley Hewitt.

The theme tune

Many a good television programme has a decent theme tune. Even fewer theme tunes are sung and written by the show’s presenters. The Untied Shoelaces Show’s signature tune was co-written (with Jim McGinlay) and sung by Tiger Tim Stevens himself (as the T.T.S. Band). As for the lyrics… here they are:

Children: It’s The Untied Untied Shoelaces Show. It’s The Untied Untied Shoelaces Show

Tiger Tim: Wake up, you sleepyhead. It’s time for you to get out of bed. This is The Untied, Untied, The Untied Shoelace Show

Tiger Tim: Here on your TV set, this is the show you wont forget. This is The Untied, Untied, The Untied Shoelace Show

Yes it’s the Untied, Untied, The Untied Shoelace Show

Finally…

We shall sign off with a few clips. Some of which are from the 1984 Easter Special.

One more thing: do you have any memories of The Untied Shoelaces Show? Were you one of the studio audience members? Did you play in any of the bands. Have you met Tiger Tim Stevens in person? Feel free to comment.

S.V., 14 April 2020.

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