... a simple premise for a television show. A surprise encounter and an unexpected reunion. The host reveals the life story of the unsuspecting ‘subject’ with the help of a Big Red Book and a gathering of family and friends.
That formula became one of the most popular programmes on British television ever, running almost 50 years, producing over 1000 editions, and, in the process, becoming a British institution.
At the peak of its popularity, in the 1970s and 80s, millions of television viewers regularly tuned in every Wednesday at 7pm with excited anticipation of whose name would be embossed on that week’s Big Red Book...
This website is a celebration of the show and the lives it honoured. Open the Big Red Book to reveal a record of every UK edition from 1955-2003 and learn about the series, the subjects and the sets as we turn back the pages of one of the best loved television treasures of all time.
So, as the man said ... “if you look at that screen over there...”
Jack Crawshaw - former researcher, writer, and producer of This Is Your Life:
"Big Red Book is a living archive - a unique and illuminating document, which combines a mass of historical data with a fund of fond memories of our much loved programme.
A well researched, and conscientiously collated, This Is Your Life, This Is Your Life."
The actor recalls his 1982 This Is Your Life experience in an exclusive interview
The ballerina - and recipient of two Big Red Books from 1960 and 1995
The snooker player – surprised in 1981 – affectionately known as the ‘People’s Champion’
Film producer honoured in a 1990 edition - billed as Thames Television’s 501st, in front of an audience of past subjects
A 1982 edition paid tribute to the former model who became a popular television personality
|The Beverley Sisters
The first edition to honour three subjects – in a New Year’s Eve broadcast from 1969
Retired Labour Party politician and Speaker of the House of Commons – surprised in 1983
The popular novelist celebrated in a 1993 edition recorded in Hollywood
The character actor of stage, screen and television – surprised in 1976
A 1984 edition honouring the Royal Air Force officer, left-handed golfer, author and Member of Parliament
Mary and her colleague Jo Collins – co-founders of Chickenshed theatre - recall their 1997 This Is Your Life experience in an exclusive interview
The actor, writer and raconteur - and recipient of two Big Red Books from 1977 and 1994
The Labour MP for Leeds East and former Chancellor of the Exchequer - surprised shortly after his retirement in 1989
The writer, known for her romantic fiction set in London’s East End, was surprised in 1986
A 1979 edition paid tribute to the cricketer acknowledged as one of the greatest fast bowlers in history
The scientist and popular broadcaster was surprised in 1975
A 1988 tribute to the former tennis player who won the Wimbledon singles title twice in the 1920s
An unusual edition from 1974 sees the actor and playwright standing for most of the show
A musical edition from 1992 featuring the celebrated blind jazz pianist and composer
A heart-warming Christmas Day broadcast featured a Cheshire housewife and foster mother
Check out the subject lists year by year - from series 1 to 43
Search the full A-Z list of 1104 subjects from Abbot to Zarb
Discover more about the show and lives of those it featured
Delve into the archives for more insight into the show's history
An expanding online archive of exclusive interviews
A chronology of the show's fifty year history
|The first BBC period
There's now an entry for every one of the 256 subjects featured between 1955 and 1964
The 1978 tribute to the much loved broadcaster who passed away in January 2016
|Behind The Scenes:
Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley reveals the show's best kept secrets
The actress - created a Dame in the recent New Year's Honours list - was surprised in 1992
|From the archives:|
The actor best known for his role in the BBC comedy series Are You Being Served - recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in an interview from 2009
The mountaineer - who despite being a double amputee - has climbed several mountains, including the Eiger and the Matterhorn – was interviewed in 2010
| Anita Harris
An interview from 2012 featuring the actress, singer and cabaret entertainer – surprised in 1982
Christine McMahon – interviewed in 2013 - recalls her experience of the tribute which honoured her father – former player and manager of Liverpool FC
In an interview recorded in 2013, the former ballerina and artistic director of the London Festival Ballet remembers her 1974 tribute