Back in the 1970s and 80s, the Radio 1 Roadshow was the highlight of the teenage summer calendar.
The roadshow was the brainchild of former Radio 1 controller Johnny Beerling, who decided it was time to take the station’s brand of modern music, played by up-and-coming DJs, on the road across the UK. Beerling felt Radio 1 was perceived by the wider audience as being “down south” in London.
In 1973, he decided it was time to change people’s perception of the station by taking it all over the UK, giving fans the chance to meet the DJs in person and have a bop to the latest hits in their home town. The idea was to let young people know that Radio 1 was for everyone – and not just for the trendy kids in the capital.
© Patrick Bishop / Alamy Stock Photo
The Radio 1 Roadshow made its debut in Newquay, Cornwall, on Monday 23rd July 1973. Popular DJ Alan Freeman kicked off the live show at 5pm. The show used a caravan built by brothers John and Tony Miles. Tony was known as “Smiley Miley” and led the BBC support crew, who worked behind the scenes to make the roadshow a reality.
The show visited 45 venues every year, with thousands of fans making the journey to coastal locations across the UK to join in the fun. As well as the Radio 1 DJs appearing live, the biggest pop stars of the day would perform at the roadshow. Some people planned their summer holiday around attending the roadshow at the seaside.
It was the place to be in the summer for almost three decades. Thousands of people attended the Radio 1 Roadshow in Cornwall between the 1970s and the 1990s.
In 1976, a TV documentary was filmed, showing the Radio 1 Roadshow on the road. It featured DJs such as Noel Edmonds, Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart, David Hamilton and other top presenters of the era.
It also featured quizzes that the audience would participate in, which always had a touch of humour. The DJs did their best to put the audience members at ease when they went up on the stage.
The documentary showed live performances by various acts, including a comedy set by The Wurzels, who sang their mega-hit, Combine Harvester.
Carlyon Bay, St Austell
The greatest DJs of the day, including Gary Davies, Steve Wright, Mike Read and Simon Mayo, visited what was once The Cornwall Coliseum throughout the 1980s. Always eagerly awaited by an excitable crowd, the atmosphere was electric as the roadshow got underway.
St Ives and Newquay
The roadshow was held in St Ives and Newquay in 1995 and 1996. Some of the biggest stars of the day, including Boyzone, Supergrass, Chris Evans and Ocean Colour Scene, performed live. Radio 1 DJ Simon Mayo whipped up the massive St Ives crowd in 1995.
Boyzone met the fans in St Ives, where Bros star Matt Goss also enjoyed banter on stage with the band members, to the delight of the crowds. Goss later wandered around to socialise and sign autographs. There was a festival atmosphere, as thousands of people gathered on the seafront to soak up the glorious sunshine.
In Newquay, pop supremo Simon Cowell joined the roadshow in 1995 with some of his acts, including his new boy band, Ultimate Kaos. It was certainly the era of boybands, as another group of young hopefuls, 4mandu, also played at the same event. The following year, Supergrass played their brand of Brit pop at Newquay.
In those days, Chris Evans was a massive draw. He was the presenter of Radio 1’s flagship breakfast show and was at the height of his success. He was also presenting Channel 4’s TFI Friday series and his witty banter added to the party atmosphere at the Newquay and St Ives roadshows.
Games and merchandise
Smiley Miley invented a long running game, called the Mileage Game, when members of the audience had to guess how far the team had travelled between shows. Another popular game was Bits and Pieces, when audience members took part in a quiz.
Four contestants listened to 10 small snippets of songs and had to guess the artist and title. The prize was a Radio 1 goodie bag. The famous “Goodie Mobile” accompanied the roadshow and sold mementos such as Radio 1 mugs, t-shirts, stickers, hats, pens and posters. The DJs usually signed plenty of autographs on the day and provided a great family day out.
End of the road
The Radio 1 Roadshow rolled a final time in 1999. The last old-style roadshow was hosted by Chris Moyles at Marine Parade, Brighton and was subsequently axed in 2000, when Radio 1 launched a series of one-day pop concerts instead, under the banner, One Big Sunday.
Over time, these too were replaced and today, there’s a two-day festival event every summer, called Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The emphasis is on new music and artists and the old Radio 1 Roadshow has disappeared into the file marked “nostalgia”.
In 2018, on the 45th anniversary of the roadshow’s launch, a compilation of the best bits was released, capturing the great days of the event between 1973 and 1999.
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