Punk band The Sex Pistols released God Save the Queen, Apple Computer was incorporated and Elvis Presley died.
But 1977 will of course always be remembered by the art and antiques trade as the year the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow began.
Recorded at Hereford Town Hall on May 17, 1977, the first episode was a pilot show, presented by Bruce Parker with antiques expert Arthur Negus. A series was soon commissioned and was broadcast in 1979, and the Sunday night show proved so popular it has prompted spin-off series around the world.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the series is set to return to our screens on Sunday, September 24. Producer Simon Shaw marks 14 years on the show in October, having produced more than 350 episodes. Under his watch around 6m UK viewers tune in each week (10m is his top viewing figure ever).
Ahead of the broadcast of what will be his last Roadshow series, he speaks to ATG about why the show remains so popular.
ATG: Did you watch the Roadshow before you joined the BBC?
SS: I watched from day one and always fantasised one day I may get to work on the Roadshow. So it was a dream come true when I saw the job advertised.
ATG: Why do you think the programme is popular after all this time?
SS: At its heart, the Roadshow has a simple yet compelling format which allows viewers to enjoy it on lots of different levels.
Partly it’s about evaluating antiques and the surprises we pass on – but it’s also a show that makes great people-watching, is always packed with fascinating stories and there’s something uniquely British about it which is warmly revealing.
ATG: How do you keep it fresh?
SS: We’ve gently evolved the show over the 14 seasons I’ve overseen.
We’ve tried to be more ambitious with our venues which form an important part of the character of each show.
Our experts have sharpened their journalistic instincts by being encouraged to see each recording as a chance to unfold a good story rather than delivering straightforward facts.
Plus, we’ve worked hard to polish the look of the programme to make each episode a sumptuous watch.
ATG: Are you worried the UK may ‘run out of’ antiques and there won’t be enough interesting objects in private hands to have on the show?
SS: Not based on the quality of objects we see at most venues.
Last week in Suffolk we recorded more than 60 strong segments, ranging from a medieval sword dug up on a golf course to a largely untold account of a person who played an important role in decoding enemy intelligence in the Second World War.
ATG: Across the many series, what is the one valuation that stands out for you and why?
SS: That’s a tough one. The vicar with the Van Dyck will always take some beating but I’ve a very fond memory of many pieces, including the wonderful man who persuaded Rommel to give him and fellow British captives some cold beer and a packet of cigarettes.
ATG: Where do you get some of the themed ideas from?
SS: Some naturally occur with anniversaries like the two recorded on the Somme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
As part of the 40th anniversary, there will also be a special programme recorded at BBC Studios in Elstree featuring stories and objects from the entertainment world, filmed on the set of soap opera EastEnders.
There, experts will hear stories from specially-invited guests bringing objects that reveal stories of meetings with famous names from the entertainment world, all set against the familiar backdrop of Walford.
ATG: With popularity of shows such as Fake or Fortune? it’s clear there is an appetite from the public for more in-depth art programmes.
Are you tempted to change the Roadshow format and make it more highbrow?
SS: That suggests we don’t deliver detailed content on the Roadshow, which I believe we regularly do, yet it’s done in a very accessible form.
I feel the formula works perfectly as it is. Is there room for another programme that allows investigation of unsolved mysteries behind objects? I’d like to think so.
ATG: Some of our readers have criticised the show for not featuring enough antiques and instead having too much memorabilia or items that are not that old. How do you keep a balance? Do you make sure there are enough ‘antique objects’ alongside the vintage pieces on each episode?
SS: It is worth remembering that each show is made up of the strongest objects brought to us at our events.
So we don’t deliberately choose to feature more modern pieces; rather we seek out the strongest stories which may be linked to antiques or more modern pieces.
It’s possible however that the pieces we see at our recording days are more reflective of the market, which has seen a shift towards a wider collecting base.
ATG: What is the show’s stance on ivory antiques?
SS: In our role as a trusted source of advice about antiques and fine art, we do not feel it appropriate to impose a ban on all coverage of ivory objects.
On the few occasions where we will show antique ivory in future programmes we will choose them because of their importance in representing such cultural or creative significance and only when such pieces are legal under the CITES convention.
Within these features we will also seek to reflect the wider context of the debate about ivory and the horrors of modern day poaching.
ATG: What is the worst option – bad weather while filming, uninspiring participants or unspiring objects?
SS: I’d take bad weather over dull objects any day.
Bizarrely, rain doesn’t impact on the quality of the shows we make. It’s just hellish to be filming all day in foul conditions.
Simon Shaw Curriculum Vitae
Started working on Antiques Roadshow in October having just finished the first series of Restoration
Began working in TV
Worked as a radio producer for Radio 4
Joined the BBC aged 18 in local radio. “I observed one of the first ever Antiques Roadshows being recorded in Derby and knew that I wanted to work on it way back then.”
Rupert Maas on Simon Shaw
Picture dealer Rupert Maas pays tribute to producer Simon Shaw ahead of his last series in charge of Antiques Roadshow.
"I really enjoyed working with Simon. He has made sure the Roadshow always goes to beautiful venues – in the past we used to sometimes end up in sports halls.
He has made it look gorgeous technically and he has also made it very efficient. Since he has worked on it he has got two programmes out of every venue. Great value for money for the licence fee payer.
He has been brilliant for the show. He hired Fiona Bruce, who is great. He has concentrated on the narrative, trying to bring out the stories.
Yes, I would like to see more antiques on the programme, but at every venue we still see amazing things, fantastic pictures, wonderful jewellery and something comes in across every discipline."
What ATG readers think
A selection of comments from reader correspondence after ATG’s round table debate on TV’s depiction of the antiques trade (ATG No 2266).
With the exception of the outstanding Antiques Roadshow, programmes such as Antiques Road Trip are guilty of being too much about the presenters and too little about the antiques.
MS Robinson, Chester
I would love to see a younger group take the reins in shows such as Antiques Roadshow, though whether this will encourage young buyers is a moot point.
Iain Byatt-Smith, Edinburgh
The participants in ATG’s round table debate on antiques TV rightly gave credit to Antiques Roadshow as the gold standard of television viewing and to Flog It! for its educational content.
Bruce van der Byl-Knoefel, chairman, West Street Association, Dorking
ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal may not be in the ‘venerable’ league of Antiques Roadshow but it is about the reality of the antiques trade.
Tim Hogarth, Yorkshire (and participant dealer on Dickinson’s Real Deal)
Whereas Antiques Roadshow gives informative facts and an estimate, other shows such as Bargain Hunt and Flog It! show actual items being sold at auction.
In dismissing daytime TV programmes about antiques, while offering praise for Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune?, ATG’s round table panellists are maintaining the ‘tweed and corduroy’ stereotype of the antiques trade.
Peter Mason, Charles Ross Auctioneers
BBC Antiques Roadshow presenters since the start
■ Bruce Parker
■ Angela Rippon
■ Hugh Scully
■ Michael Aspel
■ Fiona Bruce
The next Antiques Roadshow is scheduled for Sunday, September 24, on BBC One.