The Early Riser
Updated: Nov 13
Keith Chegwin 17 January 1957 - 11 December 2017
The effervescent TV presenter who featured in the hearts of generations of Children's TV viewers has died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Born in Walton, Liverpool to Margaret (nee Wells) and Colin Chegwin. He had a twin brother, Jeffrey and his sister Janice, was to become the well known DJ Janice Long. He was singing on working men's club stages by the age of 11 and was spotted by Phil Collins' mother, June, who invited him to audition for a role in the West End musical Mame. (1969). He landed the part but was unable to perform due to licensing laws so ended up training at the Barabra Speake Stage School that June Collins worked with.
Chegwin had a moderate degree of success as a child actor, appearing in various TV shows and even playing Fleance in the Polanski 1971 film version of Hamlet. Yet it was a "man of the people" exuberant TV presenter that he is to be remembered.
He was asked to fulfil a co presenter role on the seventies Saturday morning behemoth Multi Coloured Swap Shop alongside Noel Edmonds after pitching an idea for a Children's Chat Show. The Iive show was an eclectic mix of features built around the concept of children swapping toys through the show. He would interview people on outside broadcasts as the show facilitated the swap of toys.
Within two years he was offered his own show. Cheggers Plays Pop (1978-1986) was a quiz show for school teams answering questions about pop music, alongside physical challenges and an in studio performance by a current pop act. It proved very popular. In 1982, Noel Edmonds made the move to peak time TV presenting and Swap Shop was replaced with Saturday Superstore (1982-1987) which Chegwin once again featured, predominately on outside broadcasts. He married co presenter Maggie Philbin in 1982 and they were the showbiz couple of the era.
In 1992, after his long association with the BBC had come to an end, he admitted to alcoholism on a popular daytime chat show and credited the very public confession as pivotal in helping him turn his life around. It was clearly a complicate dime in his life as he divorced Philbin in 1993, eventually marrying the family nanny Maria Fielden in 2000.
It was not long before he was doing what he always did best. Knocking on people's doors at obscene times in the morning with his chirpy enthusiasm and relentless smile, this time for Channel 4 Big Breakfast. As the nineties drew on he fronted the rebirth of two popular game shows, The sale of the Century and It's a Knockout and made headlines by presenting The Naked Jungle (2000). A show which featured naturists competing for fig leaves, in which he presented, naked aside from a pith helmet. If presenting naked was not enough to confirm he did not take himself too seriously, he gleefully allowed himself to be sent up in Ricky Gervais' Extras in 2006.
He was back on people's doorsteps in the morning by 2007, this time with GMTV and was a contestant in Dancing on Ice (2013) and Celebrity Big Brother (2015).
It would seem curious that a man could corner such a specific market niche, but, Chegwin was a master at managing members of the public of all ages, with his cheery disposition and natural affinity for people, and seemingly relentless energy at ungodly hours of the morning. Surprising unsuspecting Brits with live broadcast television in a career that spanned three decades, he will be sorely missed.