Corby It's a Knockout captain pays tribute to 'amazing' team 40 years on

Teams representing Corby, Kettering and Watford competed at Wicksteed Park on April 27, 1980

By Alison Bagley
Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 6:00 am

The coach of a team that represented Corby in TV game show It's A Knockout is hoping that squad members will get in touch with him as the 40th anniversary of their appearance takes place next week.

In 1980, Jim Kelly, a fitness instructor, had been asked by Corby Council to train the town's representatives for the hugely popular programme involving a series of physical challenges, combined with over-sized costumes and props and featuring obstacles including foam, water and greased surfaces.

The team were pitted against local rivals Kettering and another team from Watford who were to battle it out for the opportunity to travel to an international round on mainland Europe.

Corby's It's a Knockout team with Jim, fifth from the right and his son Peter Kelly team mascot - small boy with blonde hair

Jim, 76, said: "Ours was a very good side. I was asked to put a team together because I held keep fit classes at Lodge Park Sport Centre.

"We held a selection process and trials and trained for a good six months before the competition.

"I told them that they had to take it seriously because it was important for the town. We needed athletes to take part so they had to come to every session.

"We trained very hard. I had never been so fit in all my life."

Kettering's victorious team trained for the wet conditions

Jim, who now lives in Warrington, put his team through their paces in readiness for the televised contest, filmed in a day at Wicksteed Park.

As preparation they entered team games including an inter-town pub tug-o-war competition which they won first prize - a barrel of beer - but when it came to the day Jim says the organisers did everything to handicap the Corby team.

He said: "They changed the rules half way through the competition for us. Our chap had to swing on four ropes across a deep pool of water. In the practice he swung across like Tarzan so for the filming it looked too easy - they shortened our ropes which made it really hard.

"They had two sets of kit. In the dice game we had a local gymnast who had to stand on these huge over-sized dice and she could do that a treat, so they changed her dice for a different set.

It's a Knockout featured large foam costumes and usually a great deal of water.

"It taught me a huge lesson. When I see something on the TV now I immediately think 'is that the same for everybody?'."

Watford were pipped by one point to the top spot by Kettering, with Corby coming in last place after the games which included Rolling Board, Dice Roll, Threading the Needles, Stilted Boots, Water Carousel, Musical Dogs, Pool Swing and The Stepped Dirigible with the 'Fil Rouge' of Inclined Basketball.

Kettering qualified for the next heat of 'Jeux Sans Frontières' at Portorož, Yugoslavia, now Slovenia.

Jim said: "It was a very, very hard day. They hadn't organised proper breaks for food and drink for us because they were concentrating on the filming but Wicksteed Park did us proud.

"After the show we weren't heart broken. We had had a really good time and had a really good party but we locked the Kettering team out."

Now retired, Jim went on to be head of sport and recreation at Corby Council before moving to work in Manchester.

Jim added:"After the competition the Kettering captain thought it had been a good laugh. I felt that Watford were second to us and some years later I happened to work with the Watford captain who said he thought our team were amazing and we should have won.

"I'd like to see what happened to the team. They were a really good bunch of young people, a really decent bunch."

Anyone who has memories or photographs of the It's A Knockout competition should email [email protected]

A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper when you do your weekly shop.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you