Black Country borough won It’s a Knockout
DO you remember the TV show It’s a Knockout? The main series ran from 1966 to 1982 and there were several special editions as well. In 1978 a team from the Black Country put the region on the map by winning the British competition and making their way to the European grand final.
The 13th season of the show was broadcast in 1978 and a team from Sandwell entered. The borough was then only four years old, having been created in 1974 by an amalgamation of West Bromwich and Warley and it was hoped the competition would bring recognition to the new metropolitan borough.
Sandwell took part in heat 4 of the series and the team was made up of Geoff Bennett (captain), Rosie Bishop (ladies’ captain), Paul Butler, John Collins, Janet Dale, Sandy Dallas, Colin Dewis, Trevor Drew, Karen Dumpleton, Tony Gale, David Gillard, Judith Gowan, Mervyn Green, Ian Hamblett, Roger Hill, Hazell Humm, Patricia Jones, Ann Keighley, Paul Kelsey, Jim Lavin, Brian Lewis, Paul Lippiatt, Mick Lockwood, Steve Millard, Raymond Morris, Stan Osborne, Yvonne Painting, Lesley Pallett, Gary Payne, Peter Reynolds, Gill Shinton, Ann Smith, Amanda Thornton and Geoff Tibbetts.
It was something of a Black Country derby as they faced Wolverhampton as well as a team from Redditch. The Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton was the venue.
Sandwell were the winners, with the scores Sandwell 30, Redditch 25 and Wolverhampton 19. That meant the team had qualified for the British final and for the European heats.
The British final was held in June and transmitted on BBC1 on September 13, 1978. Sandwell were up against Bath, Cleethorpes, Crewe and Nantwich, East Kilbride, Londonderry, and Stevenage.
At the end of the competition, Sandwell and Stevenage were tied on 38 points. There was only one way to decide the result – a sack race tie-breaker! Sandwell were victorious and comedian Ken Dodd presented to the trophy to team captain Geoff Bennett.
The European version of the show was called Jeux Sans Frontières and in their heat Sandwell represented Great Britain against teams from Silly (Belgium), Altdorf (Switzerland), Lahnstein (West Germany), Fontainebleau (France), Tolfa (Italy), and Zemun (Yugoslavia).
It was filmed in July and broadcast on October 11. The venue was a specially constructed stadium on the banks of the Danube in the suburbs of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The 3,200 seat stadium was barely finished in time, with 100 Yugoslav builders working round the clock to meet the deadline.
During rehearsals Sandwell’s Mick Lockwood broke his leg when he fell 25 feet after the scaffolding rig he was standing on gave way.
Sandwell were not deterred by this set back and won with 48 points, the highest total of any British team.
The grand final was held on September 6, 1978 at the Parco Terme in Montecatini Terme, Italy, and the show was broadcast on BBC1 on November 8.
The teams were Willebroek (Belgium), Arosa (Switzerland), Bad Sobernheim (West Germany), Fontainebleau (France), Sandwell (Great Britain), Abano Terme (Italy), and Kragujevac (Yugoslavia).
The Sandwell team almost did not make it to the finals as the Italian authorities insisted that they all have smallpox jabs before they were allowed to enter the country. The Italians were eventually persuaded that it would not be safe for the competitors to have the injections before taking part in a tough, physical competition.
For the final Sandwell wore red and were in confident mood, having finished runners-up in the full dress rehearsal. They repeated that performance in the final, ending up in second place behind Abano Terme, 43 points to 41.
•Are there any members of the Sandwell team among our readers? Please get in touch and tell us more about It’s a Knockout. Email [email protected] blackcountrybugle.co.uk or contact the Bugle at the Dudley Archives Centre, Tipton Road, Dudley, DY1 4SQ, 01384 889000.
Sandwell captain Geoff Bennett receives a kiss from Sandwell Mayoress Linda King, as his team became champions of Great Britain
Sandwell in the grand final of Jeux Sans Frontières at Montecatini Terme, Italy
Sandwell do a lap of honour after winning their heat of Jeux Sans Frontières in Yugoslavia
Sandwell’s It’s a Knockout team