Many a Slip (radio series)

Many a Slip was a BBC Radio 4 panel game created by Ian Messiter that ran from 1964 to 1979. It was chaired by Roy Plomley, with a musical mistakes round supplied by Steve Race. The title of the show is a reference to the English proverb "There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip".

The BBC received requests from school teachers and lecturers for transcripts of Ian Messiter's pieces as a fun way of teaching educational subjects to pupils.


For the first couple of series, the contestants were Isobel Barnett and Eleanor Summerfield versus Richard Murdoch and Lance Percival. Temporary replacements for Lance Percival in the first series (each for one show) were Kenneth Horne, Terence Alexander and Jon Pertwee.

When the annual radio series returned, magician David Nixon replaced Lance Percival. When David Nixon died in the 1970s Lance Percival returned.

In the early 1970s Isobel Barnett and Richard Murdoch were replaced by Katharine Whitehorn and Paul Jennings. The new panellists were replaced after only one series by Tim Rice and Gillian Reynolds who remained until the show ended in 1979.

Over 250 shows were recorded. Roy Plomley and Steve Race were in every show. Eleanor Summerfield only missed two shows; her temporary replacement was Andrée Melly. The only other stand-in player for one show was Graeme Garden.


In a typical round, Plomley read out a piece of text prepared by Messiter, and contestants buzzed in if they detected an error. Correctly identifying an error scored one point and supplying a correction was worth a second; if a contestant buzzed in when there was no error, two points were awarded to the opposing team. Occasionally a third point was awarded when a contestant spotted a mistake Messiter had not intended.

Mid-way through each show, for one round, Plomley handed over to "our musical mistakes man, Steve Race", who would play short extracts from well-known pieces of music, each preceded by a spoken introduction, while contestants attempted to detect errors in the introduction, the piece, or both. A regular feature was a memory round: Plomley read a short piece, usually of verse or song lyrics, then read it again later on in the show with funny alterations which the teams scored points for correcting. Other regular features were the Many a Slip library with its books of incorrect titles and authors; a murder mystery round with the Many a Slip detective; travelogues of different countries and the Many a Slip chef and his way of cooking with ingredients that no sane chef would use.

For each series the chairman kept a running total of how many games each team had won and in the last show he announced which team had won the series.

Other versions and connections to other shows

In the mid sixties it was tried out on TV for one series. Peter Haigh took over as chairman and Steve Race's contribution was replaced by a spot the mistakes in the picture round, but it was deemed too static for TV.

Personnel from Many a Slip took part in two special editions of Brain of Britain in which they were pitted against the current year's Brain of Brains. The first in the mid sixties had Eleanor Summerfield, Richard Murdoch and Roy Plomley and was chaired by Franklin Engelmann. The second in the mid 1970s had Eleanor Summerfield, David Nixon, Tim Rice and Gillian Reynolds and was chaired by Robert Robinson.

In the first series after the death of Kenneth Williams, for a double recording at the Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street (the home of many Many a Slip recordings), Many a Slip one-time team-mates Richard Murdoch and Lance Percival were reunited to do battle against Clement Freud and Wendy Richard in Ian Messiter's most successful panel game Just a Minute. Richard Murdoch remained a regular guest on Just a Minute till he died in the early 90s.

In the late 1990s the BBC recorded a pilot of Many a Slip at the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. The show's new host was one-time fill-in panellist Graeme Garden. The teams were Helen Lederer and Lorelei King versus Miles Kington and David Stafford. The show had a new musical mistakes man at the piano.

Theme music

The theme music for the series was composed by John Baker at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.


  • BBC Public Archives in Caversham, Berkshire.
  • Radio Times 1964-1979 - British Library and Leicester Square reference library.
  • Ian Messiter's autobiography.
  • "Many a Slip". Retrieved 26 October 2007.

See also

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