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SEASIDE SPECIAL

BBC1
5th July 1975 - 8th September 1979

A staple of BBC and ITV programming in the summer months of the fifties would be edited versions of the summer variety shows which would play in Blackpool, Skegness, Great Yarmouth and the other great British coastal playgrounds.

As TV and its audience became allegedly more sophisticated there would be reliance on TV studio bound shows offering pretty much the same acts. ABC's Blackpool Night Out / The Blackpool Show would run for two summers in the mid sixties and offered The Beatles playing live and Tony Hancock mistakenly trying his hand at becoming an all round entertainer.

After the 1968 ITV franchise round any thought of shows going to the seaside were ruled out as more high brow programming was expected. It was up to the BBC to offer a replacement but it would take until the mid 1970s. Possibly as a result of the success of It's A Knockout visiting seaside towns it was decided to get the bucket and spade and head for the beach one more time. BBC2 had offered us The Young Generation Big Top in 1973, which lasted one series, but it needed BBC1 to take it seriously.

The BBC charabanc parked up at the Blackpool and out fell Ken Dodd and his Diddymen, Dana, Wild Honey and dance troupe New Edition. For the series the producers used Gerry Cottle's circus tent. Hosted by Radio One's David Hamilton and produced by Michael Hurll the show's format couldn't be faulted. Comedy, variety acts from the circus and club land and the odd pop star, which by the mid seventies was very odd indeed. If proof were needed chief Womble Mike Batt provided the theme, Summertime City which gave him a well deserved hit under his own name.

Each week the show would visit a different seaside town and the show be hosted by a Radio One DJ.

For the 1977 season they introduced the Miss Seaside Special 1977 Natural Beauty Contest, while they also found themselves on the French coast thanks to a couple of co-productions with French TV. While 1978 sees them get the parka out with Snowtime Special, a two-parter with proper international guests, Andy Williams, Boney M, Petula Clark, Manhattan Transfer and Charles Aznavour. The 1978 series bids a fond farewell to the Radio One DJs with Sacha Distel hosting most of the show, which mostly came from the same venue, The Hippodrome Big Top, Torbay in Devon. The final series in 1979 saught the help of Radiol One again as the shows were hosted for the most part by Peter Powell.

Among the musical guests over the years were The Three Degrees, Cilla Black, Abba, Dollar, The Dooleys, Dana Gillespie and many chart acts of the day.

Seaside Special was one of the last true variety shows. After the final show the tent was taken down, packed away and forgotten about.

(Dana is now appearing in 'Holiday Happiness' at the Southport Theatre, Southport)