Blue Peter: Defining childhood for six decades

WHETHER it was John Noakes having his foot stepped on by a defecating baby elephant, Anthea Turner making Tracey Island from the contents of her rubbish bin or Helen Skelton performing daredevil stunts - the stand-out moments from Blue Peter over the last 60 years have defined generations of childhoods.


And even as it approaches the age of retirement, CBBC’s flagship children’s programme shows no signs of stopping.

Next month, it will hold a diamond anniversary special, with an one-hour live show that will remind the nation how it came to capture hearts of children - and parents - across the nation, reuniting former presenters and putting its newest recruits to the test with challenges in true Blue Peter style.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Perhaps its most-loved presenter however, will be notably absent. Noakes, who was born in Shelf near Halifax, died last year at the age of 83 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Former Blue Peter presenters (left-right) Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes in 1972. Picture: Peter Jordan/PA Wire

Some of his feats on the show go down in television history, from ascending Nelson’s Column without a safety harness, to his wonderful partnership with the canine stars of Blue Peter.

It was undoubtedly the golden age of Blue Peter, from his debut in 1965 to his farewell in 1978, but being in front of the camera did not come easily at first for the former actor. He spoke of feeling stripped naked by the camera, and even visited a faith healer and a hypnotist to get over his fears. He told how he only survived the job by acting the clown and developing an on-screen persona as “this idiot called John Noakes”.

Yorkshire has been well represented on Blue Peter over the years, with Mark Curry, who presented the show in the late 1980s alongside the likes of Janet Ellis, Peter Duncan, Caron Keating, Yvette Fielding and John Leslie, growing up in Allerton Bywater, near Castleford; and Richard Bacon, who left the show under a cloud of scandal in 1998 educated in Worksop in Nottinghamshire, close to the South Yorkshire border.

Countryfile host Helen Skelton, who presented the show from 2008 until 2013, now lives in Leeds.

Simon Groom, Sarah Greene & Peter Duncan. Picture: BBC

Blue Peter’s enduring popularity means the show still inspires children to send in more than 100,000 letters and pictures each year with nearly 200,000 under 16s owning at least one Blue Peter badge - each and every one as special as the commemorative diamond badge created earlier this year by designer Henry Holland to mark the 5,000th episode.

During the live broadcast, which will be screened on CBBC on Tuesday October 16 at 5pm, Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves, Anthea Turner, Konnie Huq and Tim Vincent will return with washing up liquid bottles and toilet rolls for a live ‘make’ with a difference, while Halifax-born singer Ed Sheeran will be honoured with the highest Blue Peter accolade, a Gold Blue Peter badge.

There will be an announcement about the return of the show’s hugely successful Bring and Buy Sales campaign in support of BBC Children in Need this November.

Blue Peter editor, Ewan Vinnicombe said: “Blue Peter is a very special club to be part of and the Big Birthday show will be a moment to remember and one to watch for all generations of Blue Peter fans. We are celebrating in style so if you’ve got a Blue Peter badge wear it with pride on our big day.”

Blue Peter presenter John Noakes scales Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square with no harness in 1977. Picture: BBC

A safe future for classic clips

IT is the world’s longest-running children’s programme, and now the BBC is ensuring that memorable moments from its past are secured for future generations.

Archive episodes of the show are being digitised to make it easy as possible for the current team to share well-known and loved clips with audiences on social media and on the programme itself. Sadly full episodes will not be made available for those wishing to immerse in nostalgia.

Editor Ewan Vinnicombe said: “BBC Archive [has been] going through digitising every episode of Blue Peter there’s ever been into the digital archive so we can then please all the different audiences for all the different clips they want.”