THE DAY WE ALL TURNED COLOUR

Fifty years ago, on November 15th 1969, BBC1 and ITV simultaneously launched a regular colour television service in the UK.

Although BBC2 had been mostly broadcasting in colour for two years, this was the big roll out. While ‘An Evening With Petula’, featuring a Petula Clark concert from the Royal Albert Hall, became the first colour programme shown on BBC One, the less glamorous ‘Royal Auto Club Road Report’ was ITV’s colour début.

Despite the hype, the high cost of colour TV sets and the limited range of transmission across Britain meant that few people were able to enjoy this revolution at first. The average cost of a colour set, £300, prompted most people to rent. It wasn’t until 1976 that colour became more commonplace than black and white.

The thing about monochrome was that it didn’t represent real life. This became apparent when my Dad took me to see my first football match – West Ham United vs. Coventry City – in late September 1968. Played at the Boleyn Ground, just a few minutes’ walk from my home, it was a fairly inconsequential 0-0 draw but for me it was an extraordinary experience. As we trudged up the steps to the West Stand, the pitch gradually opened up before my eyes. Under the evening floodlights, it was the richest, most vivid green this boy’s eyes had ever seen, and when the Hammers walked out in their claret and blue, it was a mind-blowing explosion of colour. It was as if life itself was erupting in front of me.

At the end of 1969, when only 200,000 colour sets were in circulation in the UK, the only person I knew who owned one was my Auntie Kate. I remember sitting, bug-eyed, in front of her TV on New Year’s Eve, thinking this was some kind of a miracle. My Dad showed great restraint. I was still watching black and white TV at home until the autumn of 1972 when, finally, I could watch ’Top Of The Pops’ in all its glam glory. Let’s face it: ‘Crazy Horses’ would’ve been rubbish in monochrome.