THE MAGIC BOX

Well, that’s it. The end of an era, and the start of a new one.

I’m going to have to change my morning routine. Every morning when I wake up, I put on Ceefax – 101, 160, 501, 390, 302 – but not any more, as Northern Ireland’s analogue transmitters were switched off.

The last ever Pages From Ceefax (a curious watch when you had to be up early in the morning) ended with this self mocking message.

This was commemorated by a joint broadcast from BBCNI and UTV, the rather excellent ‘The Magic Box’ – a look back at television in Northern Ireland in the analogue era.

It was a star studded event (well, Frank Mitchell and Uncle Andy were there) but I got an e-mail a few weeks back offering me the opportunity to apply for tickets. I was tempted, but I thought this was a TV event best viewed, well, in front of a TV screen. I’m glad I did.

I was curious when reading the TV Guide on Saturday that the UTV show was scheduled to last for five minutes longer. That, was to become clear later on.

If you haven’t seen it, I seriously suggest you watch it. A link can be found here.

It began, being introduced with the classic BBC Globe Ident. Already, we’re off to a winner. I love it when the BBC does retro idents around themed events (Like when BBC 2 did 1970s Idents when introducing a season of programmes dedicated to the 1970s, fronted by Dominic Sandbrook)

From there, a comic turn, as continuity duties were handed to Julian Simmons, struggling to grasp that he was on the BBC (He has previously been on the BBC, playing himself in Give My Head Peace) and not being able to say “Simulcast” – a brilliant tribute to/gag at the expense of Ivan “Phenomenon” Little.

On a night dedicated to celebrating TV in Northern Ireland, it would have been criminal not to have Julian Simmons involved, although it was a man who has overtaken him as Northern Ireland’s most famous Continuity Announcer, Peter Dickson who introduced Eamonn Holmes in the studio.

Holmes was one of many stars we got to see in a younger day, as we were treated to a wide range of clips, in terms of subject matter, era and tone. Having looked back, and laughed at, some of life’s more light hearted moments, as well as looking back at news reports from the troubles, as well as Chris Moore talking about his expose of child abuse in the Catholic church

If you wish to see a young Eamonn Holmes, as a sports reporter for UTV (He looks like Dimitar Berbatov) – check out this excellent clip of ITV’s 1982 World Cup coverage where he interviews Sammy Mackie.

Another well known face who began his career as a sports reporter (for the BBC) was also in the audience.

The five minute time difference in the schedule was explained as BBC went off air just after 23:30, and that UTV would go off air just before 23:35.

The BBC ending was fantastic. Superbly scripted and filmed. Once the end credits finished, a quick announcement explaining the situation was read out, before cutting to the 70s Ident, before fading out to reveal a series of TVs showing past BBC Idents (and even the Ceefax home page)

Credit to Continuity Announcer Mark Simpson for an excellent read out.

That was it. Analogue BBC, and Ceefax, was no more.

UTV’s ending was rather disappointing in comparision to BBC, very matter of fact, moving on to the next programme.

It would have been brilliant if they could have used an ident or idents incorporating this logo in their final analogue moments

So, to end, here’s five (well, six really) classic Northern Ireland Youtube Clips that probably should have been mentioned on The Magic Box.

HONOURABLE MENTION – JIM ‘CRAZY PRICES’ MEGAW

5 – JULIAN SIMMONS

Not an exact moment, but a Julian Simmons Best Of would have been brilliant.

4 – NORTHERN IRELAND DISCO DANCING CHAMPIONSHIP 1981

3 – BELFAST MUSIC SCENE 1986

Technically, an RTE clip, but let’s not let that get in the way of how brilliant this clip is. It’s amazing how some parts of South Belfast have barely changed over the past 26 years.

2. CATS IN THE CRADLE

This advert scared the life out of me when I was wee. Everytime I hear the song (even if it’s the Ugly Kid Joe or Jason Downs cover) I always think of this ad

1. GOAL OF THE SEASON 94/95

So, Lionel Messi has spent his whole career paying tribute to Joey Cunningham.

The season I first started going to Linfield matches.

A different era back then. Linfield began the season as reigning Champions and Cup holders, before ending up languishing in 8th.

Oh.

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