Kirsty At The BBC (Part 1)

Hello everyone, I hope your week has been off to a very good start. As most of you know, 2022 is the centenary year of the BBC. To mark the occasion, I will be looking at Kirsty’s time there in this first part of my 2-part piece.

Kirsty made her first BBC appearance on a TV show called ‘The Problem with Gifted Children’, along with her mother, Jean in 1966. In the programme, Jean articulated that her reading and arithmetic skills were very advanced for her age. Despite this, Kirsty hardly had any schooling due to her chronic asthma. “What about your other school, I’m told you didn’t like that very much?” The presenter asked Kirsty. A shy and softly spoken Kirsty replied, “No”. “Why not?” asked the presenter. “They were rather strict and just horrible.” she answered. The footage appears in ‘The Life and Songs of Kirsty MacColl’ and the ‘Who Killed Kirsty MacColl?’ documentaries, although the latter shows slightly longer footage.

Although it’s not an appearance, it does warrant a mention here. According to ‘Sun on the Water’, Kirsty told Jean she had a surprise for her and tuned in to ‘Night Ride’, a Radio 1 show. The presenter read a letter which began “I am Kirsty MacColl and I live at….giving out her full home address, and continuing, “I have a dog and a cat and I live with my Mum, Jean MacColl, and my brother Hamish and I listen to your programme regularly and would like you to play something for my Mother”. In hindsight, Jean couldn’t remember what song it was nor whether Kirsty picked it or not. This happened on New Year’s Eve when Kirsty was 8 years old.

Over a decade later, Kirsty made one of her first appearances as a performer including ‘Top Of The Pops’. She first appeared there on 8th May 1980 wearing a yellow dress, backing Jona Lewie on ‘You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties’.

Jona Lewie - In the Kitchen at Parties - TOTP 1980 [HD]


She made her first appearance on the show as a solo artist on 25th June 1981, performing ‘Chip Shop’. Two weeks later, she made her second appearance for their 900th episode.

Kirsty MacColl - There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis (TOTP 1981)

Kirsty MacColl - There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis, TOTP 900th Edition


In that same year, Kirsty performed ‘The Clock Goes Round’ and ‘Chip Shop’ on ‘Six Fifty-Five Special’.  The late Scottish presenter, Donny MacLeod also interviewed her.

Kirsty MacColl "Clock goes round" 1981

Kirsty MacColl "There's a Guy works down the Chip Shop swears he's Elvis" 6 55 special


On 23rd October, she performed ‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’, ‘You Can Have My Husband’ and ‘Queen Of The High Teas’ on the BBC2 show, ‘Something Else’. Her full performance of ‘I Don’t Wanna Play House’ is on YouTube. In ‘The Story Of Fairytale Of New York’ documentary, an extract of ‘You Can Have My Husband’ is featured.

I Don't Wanna Play House Kirsty MacColl


Kirsty was invited back on ‘Top Of The Pops’ to perform ‘Chip Shop’ for their Christmas Day special. This was unusual as it wasn’t a Number 1, a seasonal song nor a Top Ten hit. In the Karen O’ Brien biography, ‘The One And Only’, Phil Rambow explained that the way their Christmas shows worked was that the DJs simply picked their favourite songs of that year.

Kirsty MacColl - There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop - TOTP 1981

‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Trivia Quiz’ was a 30-minute Radio 1 show which featured 2 teams. Kirsty made 3 appearances on the programme. The first was on 13th November 1983, with David Jensen as the quiz master. In her team was Junior and Pete Shelley from The Buzzcocks, playing against Pauline Black, Lesley Beech from Amazulu and Frank Maudsley for A Flock Of Seagulls. Her second appearance was on 29th January 1984. Kirsty’s team this time featured Tom Bailey and Mike Percy. Steve Lillywhite, Marilyn and Adrian John were in the opposing team.

In February 1985, ‘A New England’ became her biggest solo hit. Top Of The Pops didn’t allow her to appear in the studio as she was heavily pregnant with her oldest son, Jamie. The programme instead played the promo video on 7th.

Three days later, she made her third and final appearance on ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Trivia Quiz’ with Mark Page as the quiz master this time. In Kirsty’s team were Sal Solo and Ashley Ingham from Imagination. The other team featured Martin Fry from ABC, Tommy Vance and Brian Hibbard from Flying Pickets.

In the feature which Kirsty and Steve did for ‘No 1’ magazine, it stated “This afternoon, Kirsty is rehearsing for a spot on the Wogan show singing ‘He’s On The Beach’. Even for such a short slot it takes three rehearsals getting the camera angles right. Still, as the show has upwards of seven million viewers It’s an audience not to be missed.” The performance aired on 24th June 1985 and still exists in the BBC archives! Kirsty fan Matthew Westwood recalled watching the video when he was working at the BBC in 2006 and remembers her wearing a red outfit.

On 25th July 1986, she appeared in the Radio 1 show ‘Singled Out’ reviewing the latest single releases, along with Peter Powell. Janice Long, her close friend hosted the programme.

Kirsty made her first ‘Top Of The Pops’ studio appearance since 1981, to perform ‘Fairytale Of New York’ with The Pogues. 15th December 1987 was the filming date, but the show was transmitted two days later. Like most of the ‘Top Of The Pops’ performances at the time, it was mimed except when Kirsty sang ‘ass’ instead of ‘arse’ live. She also lightly slapped her part of the body to show what she meant!

Fairytale of New York (feat. Kirsty MacColl) [Top of The Pops Dec 1987]


‘French and Saunders’ was a comedy show that starred comedians, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, which began in 1987. Kirsty made her first appearance on 18th March 1988, singing ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’. Roland Rivron and Simon Brint also featured in the piece. Kirsty featured in the third series, but there will be more details in part 2.

In this photo, Junior, Kirsty, Climie Fisher, P.P. Arnold, Sinitta and Kevin O’Dowd (Boy George’s brother) gathered together at a studio in London on 17th November 1988 to rehearse a single called ‘What About The Children?’ to raise money for Children In Need. They never released the single.

On 30th June 1989, she made her second appearance on ‘Wogan’ singing ‘Days’.

Kirsty MacColl - Days - Wogan 1989

Kirsty made two studio appearances on ‘Top Of The Pops’ that year. The first was on 27th July where she performed her version of The Kinks’ classic, ‘Days’. The second was her backing and dancing with The Happy Mondays on ‘Hallelujah’, which helped kickstart The Madchester scene.

Kirsty MacColl - Days (Top of the Pops, 27/07/1989) [TOTP HD]

Happy Mondays (with Kirsty MacColl) – Hallelujah (Top Of The Pops 1989)


There are rare photos of her rehearsing and performing on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1989 on the BBC Photo Archive and a few more here.

On 8th November, she did her debut session for Nicky Campbell on Radio 1 performing ‘Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim!’, ‘What Do Pretty Girls Do?’, ‘Don’t Run Away From Me Now’ and ‘Still Life’.

My second part of ‘Kirsty at The BBC’ piece will focus on her appearances from 1990-2000.