Photos from Jane Mclean, no reproduction without permission.
(The following blog was written after a conversation with director, Mark Kershaw in Feb 2014)
The Tom O’Connor Roadshow was a live entertainment show transmitted from around the country early 1987, it went out daily around 12pm on BBC1. The show was based in a different town or city each week, including: Derby, Falkirk, Port Talbot, Blackpool (twice!), Portsmouth, Newcastle, Cambridge, Exeter, Bradford, Londonderry with Liverpool being the final week’s location.
The show was commissioned to plug a gap in entertainment programming after Pebble Mill (the lunchtime magazine show) was decommissioned in May 1986. There was a move to use underutilised resources, and it was felt that outside broadcast scanners were busy at weekends during the winter, with football and other sport, but were available during the week. Therefore a live entertainment show, like the Tom O’Connor Roadshow, ticked all the boxes.
It was important that all areas of the country were covered, hence shows coming from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as England. Two versions of the set had to be made, travelling round the country in different directions, with one set being erected as the other one was in use.
There were three multi-camera directors assigned to the show. Mark Kershaw did all the advance planning. There was a main director of the week, which was either Mark, David Weir or Chris Wright. One of the others was the support director for the week, whilst the third, planned ahead for the following week.
The series encountered a few issues along the way. A week in Aviemore was planned, but because of an electricians’ strike had to be relocated as a return visit to Blackpool. Inserts from Aviemore were included instead. The Londonderry week was eventful. ‘The Troubles’ were still very active. The final show on the Friday in Derry had to be stopped part way through because of a bomb scare at the venue. The show went to an filmed insert, and never came back on air, with Pres taking over the transmission! UHF mics had to be hired in for the Cambridge shows, as the University complained that the Roadshow mics were using the same frequencies as the lecturers, meaning that instead of some erudite academic lecture,the sound of the Tom O’Connor Roadshow was coming through instead!
The series was expensive to make, although it was popular with the viewers. It was its high budget that meant that it wasn’t recommissioned.
The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:
Jane Green: I worked on this series. It was great fun. I thought being sent to the Port Talbot TOCRS was drawing the short straw, until the Fine Young Cannibals came out of their dressing room dressed as Welsh Dolls and Miners to sing She Drives Me crazy!
I was one of the three live directors of the Tom O’Connor Roadshow along with Mark Kershaw and Chris Wright. To this day it was the most fun show to work on ever. The show only ran for 12 weeks yet even now, some 27 or so years later, I still get OB engineers coming up to me to say that it was the best show they had ever worked on.
Steve Weddle was the producer who came up with the truly original format – there has never been anything quite like it before or since on daytime tv – it was a mistake not to recommission it.