Born in 1948 in Ilford, Essex, Noel Edmonds is the only child of Dudley and Lydia Edmonds, both of whom were teachers. Noel was educated at Brentwood Public School, where he achieved 10 ‘O’ levels and 3 ‘A’ levels, and secured a place at Surrey University where he was intending to read psychology, philosophy and sociology.
There was nothing in his upbringing to suggest that he was destined to spend over 30 years of his working life as one of the BBC’s most successful radio and television presenters. Noel was a big fan of the pirate radio ships moored off the coast of his native Essex. He regularly sent audition tapes to Radio Caroline and Radio London. Even though the ships were closed down by the Government in 1967, miraculously Radio London disc jockey Tony Windsor retained one of the tapes and Edmonds’ contact details. When, in 1968, Windsor took over as Programme Director of Radio Luxembourg, he invited Noel to audition for the station. Up to this point Noel’s previous experience had been limited to sessions on local hospital radio, so he was understandably astonished when the legendary Radio Luxembourg took him on as a Newsreader. In November 1968 his radio career began.
Although he had many happy times with Luxembourg’s young DJ team, life in the Grand Duchy did not suit Noel and in the Spring of 1969 he returned to the UK. In another twist of good fortune, he almost immediately secured a job with the BBC. Radio 1 & 2 Presentation Editor, James Fisher, hired him to present programme trailers and on-air competitions. This got him noticed and he was included in a new series for up and coming DJ talent, entitled Pop Workshop.
The Radio 1 management were impressed, and when in February 1970 Kenny Everett succumbed to a dose of flu, Noel was selected as stand in. The magic worked and just a couple of months later he was given his own show on Saturday afternoons. In a further twist of fate, Noel was soon plunged into the full glare of media scrutiny when he was selected to replace Kenny Everett who had just been fired by the BBC. In less than 12 months Noel Edmonds had gone from 30-second programme trailers to the big time.
However, the coming months were tough as the public and media observers resented the treatment that the BBC had handed out to Kenny Everett. This was an incredibly difficult time for Noel as Kenny Everett had been his greatest inspiration, and as he would subsequently say, on many occasions, Kenny was his idol.
Slowly, Noel gained acceptance with both the fans and the broadcasting establishment. By 1971 his TV career had started to take off, with appearances on Top of the Pops and would you believe it – Come Dancing! He is still the only person to have hosted both shows!!
In 1972 there came the first indication of Noel’s interest in business, with the opening of his record shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea. There was also the release of a rather odd record, which is probably best forgotten. Indeed who would remember Alcatraz by one Kirk Houston? There was also a move from the prestigious Saturday morning slot, to Sunday mornings. Noel recalls that at the time he regarded this as a demotion, but as the months went by, the audience figures soared and so did his fortunes. He was offered his own show on the BBC World Service, and in June 1973 he took over the prestigious Breakfast Show from Tony Blackburn; a show he would host for the next 5 years. Noel Edmonds had always been a great fan of motor racing, and in parallel with his broadcasting activities, he enjoyed a number of years of moderate success on the racetracks. Radio 1 became closely involved in major motor racing events, which culminated in the now notorious Bay City Rollers riot at Mallory Park!
In the mid 70’s in addition to hosting Top of the Pops, Noel Edmonds appeared on Call My Bluff and Seaside Special, and then secured his own 7-part children’s series – Z Shed. This was another defining moment in the career of Noel Edmonds, as his success on this live show brought him to the attention of BBC1 management at a crucial time.
Exciting plans were afoot to radically change the Corporation’s approach to Saturday morning television. Out would go the repeats of black and white B movies and in would come a new live, interactive show for children. The format had been created by a brilliant BBC Producer, Rosemary Gill, and it was Rosemary who invited Edmonds to host her new show.
In the Autumn of 1976 the Multicoloured Swap Shop opened for business. Initially only 8 shows were planned. However, the BBC and Noel Edmonds found themselves with a major success on their hands. The run was extended and Swap Shop entertained a generation for 6 years. This was a period of incredible success for Noel, who balanced his Breakfast Show and TV appearances, with a punishing schedule of personal appearances and product endorsements.
In 1978, he left the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and returned to Sunday mornings, broadcasting live from “Perkins Grange”. The show was a ridiculous blend of star guests (even the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared on one show), sketches, funny phone calls, and snippets from the Sunday Papers. This unlikely blend proved to be enormously popular and it made a star of Noel’s co-presenter, the urbane Radio 4 newsreader Brian Perkins. The show was also responsible for the popularity of the Captain Beaky and Hissing Sid mania which struck the UK. Also in 1978, Noel Edmonds had his first taste of hosting a Saturday night show – Lucky Numbers – an inauspicious and unlikely start to a 20-year run as one of the country’s most popular Saturday night TV presenters.
Noel’s love of ‘boys toys’ saw him not only motor racing but also competing in the glamorous but gruelling world of offshore power boating. He qualified as a helicopter pilot, and began regularly hosting Top Gear and numerous aviation ‘specials’ for the BBC. In 1982, he secured his own Saturday night show – The Late Late Breakfast Show. After a faltering start that saw his two co-presenters axed, the show eventually grew to become enormously popular, even beating ITV’s highly popular Game for a Laugh. Further TV shows followed; Time of Your Life for BBC1 and even programming for ABC TV in the USA. Noel’s long association with Christmas Day television began with a broadcast from the Post Office Tower, which also saw the launch of Comic Relief.
In 1985, Telly Addicts was launched, Noel hosted the British Record Industry Awards (later to become the Brits), launched his own show on ABC in the USA, and was closely involved in the epic Live Aid Concert. Edmonds was not only a member of the presentation team, but his newly formed company, Helicopter Management masterminded the airlift of stars. Unique Group, his own production company, was also formed in 1985.
In 1988, Noel Edmonds rejected an offer to move to ITV. Many thought that because of the Late Late Breakfast Show tragedy, for which the BBC had been heavily criticised, he would be keen to explore pastures new. However Noel and Auntie have always had a deep mutual respect, and Noel signed a new long-term contract with BBC Television.
In 1989, the independent radio production company, Unique Broadcasting was formed. Run by his former Sunday morning radio show producer Tim Blackmore and the highly talented former Piccadilly Radio producer Simon Cole, Unique Broadcasting has enjoyed phenomenal success.
Noel’s TV career continued to be richly diverse with a Concorde Special, Noel’s Christmas Presents, The Saturday Roadshow, Telly Addicts, as well as hosting major awards shows, which altogether made Noel one of the hardest working presenters on UK television. As we entered the 1990’s, it was difficult to imagine how he could actually be more successful. He had enjoyed hit shows in each of the decades that he’d worked for the BBC. He was presenting 3 different series and numerous specials every year. But what would the future hold? The critics were hovering. Then, out of the blue (actually to be more accurate it was out of a bottle of Chardonnay or two!) Noel and his producer Michael Leggo created the format for a Saturday night television show that would go down in history as one of the BBC’s most successful productions.
When it finished in 1999, after 8 series and 167 shows, Noel’s House Party was still capable of commanding audiences to rival ITV. The media relished the story that the show had been axed because of falling ratings, however history may well be considerably kinder to Noel Edmonds and the House Party team.
Noel’s House Party became a phenomenon. No other entertainment show had ever generated so much public support in so many different ways. The format was sold around the world, and generated millions in revenue for the BBC and Unique Group. Theme parks were licensed to use the Crinkley Bottom name and the Mr Blobby character. Blobby himself had a number 1 record, and the fastest selling video of all time. The Gotcha’s went down in history as the most popular form of hidden camera and NTV was the forerunner of many of today’s programme ideas. In 1992, Noel’s House Party won the BAFTA Award for the Best Light Entertainment show in recognition of its innovation and broad family appeal.
In the mid 1990’s ITV made a second attempt to poach Noel, but his loyalty to Auntie was reflected in a new highly lucrative long-term contract. Despite the enormous success of House Party and the enduring popularity of Telly Addicts, Noel knew that this contract would be his last with the BBC.
On 31 October 2005, Noel made his TV comback presenting Deal or No Deal produced by Endemol and appearing on Channel 4. The format of the show had already been proved successful in numerous countries and it was a massive hit, broadcast six afternoons a week for 10 years. Noel was nominated for a BAFTA award for his work on the show. On 16 March 2007, Noel appeared in a cameo appearance as himself with Catherine Tate in a special episode of Deal or No Deal – the sketch was made for Red Nose Day.
Noel hosted the Sky programme Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year Old? in a programme bringing both adults and children together to compete and answer questions on science, maths, geography and a whole range of general knowledge that any 10-year old school kid should be able to answer. Better still, all of the questions are in the curriculum, with the adult contestants having a chance to win up to £250,000 as they climb the money ladder.
2009 saw the launch of Noel’s HQ on Sky1, where Noel championed worthy causes and projects in the community. Noel appeared on Alan Carr: Chatty Man (C4) as a guest discussing the release of a dance track under the name of “Candice Cannes” on April 11th 2014.
Noel joined other celebrities taking part in one of the world’s toughest classic car endurance rallies entitled Eight Go Rallying: The Road to Saigon (BBC2) in August 2018. 2018 also saw Noel take part in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!
Many of today’s TV performers would be grateful for a fraction of Noel Edmonds success, a career that in TV terms alone saw him have a hit show in each of his 3 decades with the BBC. However it is his unique relationship with the British public for which he is most grateful and with his highly successful return to the nations TV screens, that relationship would appear to be stronger than ever.