Blue Peter

From Academic Kids

Blue Peter
Missing image
Blueship.JPG
The Blue Peter ship


The second and best-known version of the Blue Peter logo,
a stylised galleon based on an original design by Tony Hart

Duration: 25 minutes.
Current presenters:
Matt Baker, Liz Barker, Gethin Jones, Konnie Huq and Z÷e Salmon.
2005 Summer Expedition: Japan

Blue Peter is a popular, long-running BBC television programme for children. It is named after the flag hoisted by ships in port when they are ready to sail.

The theme tune, in recognition of the origin of the title, is a sea shanty called Barnacle Bill, and the programme's motif is a stylised sailing ship, based on an original design by Tony Hart.

Contents

History

The programme, devised by John Hunter Blair and edited for many years by Biddy Baxter, was first shown in October 16, 1958, the original presenters being Christopher Trace and Leila Williams. The format consisted mainly of the two presenters demonstrating how to make toys and useful household objects, with the male presenter concentrating on traditional "boys'" toys such as model aeroplanes, and the female restricting herself to domestic tasks, such as cookery.

Over the years the programme changed to reflect the times. Originally it was a 15-minute weekly programme; currently it is 25 minutes and is shown three times a week on BBC One, with two more programmes (mainly comprising previously-broadcast material) each week on the CBBC Channel. The 4000th edition was broadcast on 14 March 2005. Most episodes are still broadcast live.

Almost every episode from 1964 onwards still exists in the BBC archives. This is extremely unusual for programmes of that era, and stands as testament to Baxter's foresight and initiative. Among the benefits of this policy is that one 1973 episode contains the only known broadcast quality footage of the lost final episode of the Doctor Who serial, "The Tenth Planet" which depicts The Doctor's first regeneration.

The show has seen many redesigns during its long history, often accompanied by new arrangements of the Blue Peter theme music (394kb Ogg Vorbis download). Probably the most famous version was produced in 1979 by the British composer and instrumentalist Mike Oldfield. His version was originally released as a 7" single on November 30th. According to the cover of the single, "part of the proceeds of the sale" of that record were "donated to the Blue Peter Cambodia Appeal". The opening drum roll was performed by presenter Simon Groom. This version was then used on the programme itself for several years.

In 1994 the show featured the group Stomp, who produced music using instruments fashioned from recyclables and other household waste. The show's producers were so impressed with their work that they commissioned them to do a cover of the traditional Blue Peter theme music. Their rendition was aired until 1999 when Blue Peter got a "new millennium" makeover, which involved a new logo.

Many items from Blue Peter's history have passed into television legend, especially moments when things have gone wrong, such as the much-repeated clip of Lulu the elephant from a 1969 edition who defecated on the studio floor and then proceeded to attempt an exit, dragging her keeper along the ground behind her. Other well-remembered and much-repeated items include the Girl Guides' bonfire that got out of hand on the 1970 Christmas edition, John Noakes' report on the cleaning of Nelson's Column, and Simon Groom referring to a previous item on door-knockers with the words "what a lovely pair of knockers", which has usually been explained as an accidental turn of phrase but which Groom later admitted was a deliberate joke. Additionally, Groom is remembered for inappropriately reciting, whilst wearing a suit of armour, "once a king always a king, but once a (k)night is enough", whilst Peter Duncan's cookery instructions to "finely chop one raw egg" will also go into the annals.

Features

Blue Peter's remit is very wide-ranging. Most episodes include one or more filmed reports which may be on just about any subject. There will also often be a demonstration of some activity in the studio, and/or a music or dance performance. The programme is usually made in Studio 1 at BBC Television Centre, which is the largest TV studio in Europe and enables Blue Peter to include unusually large-scale demonstrations and performances within the live show. The show is also famous for its "makes", which have given rise to the phrase 'Here's one I made earlier!', as presenters bring out a perfect and completed version of the object they are making. Time is also often given over to reading letters and showing pictures sent in by viewers.

Enduring features of the programme include the annual charity appeal, which involves young viewers by asking them to collect items that can be recycled or sold to raise money for the chosen cause. The cause is always a charity project in the UK in odd-numbered years, and abroad in even-numbered. The appeal is usually launched in late November and runs through to February or March.

The Blue Peter Summer Expedition is another long-running tradition. The expeditions focus on a single country and are filmed during the summer while the programme is off the air. The announcement of each year's destination is a major event in itself.

The team of presenters keeps various pets, the first of which was a dog named Petra; subsequent famous pets include Shep the Border Collie. Tortoises including, Freda, Maggie, Jim and George. Cats including Jason, Jack and Jill, Willow and Kari and Oke. The programme has also had the golden retrievers Goldie and Bonnie. The current pets on the show are Smudge, a cat; Meg, Lucy and Mabel, dogs; Shelley the tortoise and the rarely seen, Blue Peter horse, Jet.

The presenters also maintain the famous Blue Peter Garden, which was originally designed by Percy Thrower. Features of the garden include a pond which contains goldfish, a vegetable patch, greenhouse and viewing platform. The 2000 Blue Peter time capsule, which is due to be dug up in 2028, is buried in the garden. George the Tortoise was interred in the garden following his death in 2004, and the garden also features a bust of Petra, and a plaque in honour of Percy Thrower. In addition to featuring regularly on Blue Peter itself, the garden is available to other programmes for outside broadcasts. It is often used for the links between children's programmes during the summer months.

The programme also makes a point of marking many annual events, including Chinese New Year, Shrove Tuesday, Mothering Sunday, Guy Fawkes Night and Christmas.

Children (and occasionally adults) who appear on the show or achieve something notable may be awarded the coveted Blue Peter badge. The presenters almost always wear a badge on the programme; the only exceptions are when they are wearing something that it is impractical to attach a badge to (for example, a lifejacket), in which case a sticker with the ship emblem is normally used instead. In addition, magnetic stickers bearing the logo are often attached to vehicles driven by the presenters in filmed reports.

The show still maintains its long-standing practice of avoiding using commercial names on air. Most famously, this policy led to the invention of the phrase "sticky-backed plastic" (marketed under the tradename Fablon) back in the 1970s. An extreme example occurred in February 2005, when the show ran a feature on how NestlÚ Smarties are made, without once mentioning the name of the product.

Tributes and honours

In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, Blue Peter was placed 6th.

Asteroid 16197 Bluepeter is named in its honour. The asteroid was discovered on 7 January 2000, the day that the Blue Peter time capsules from 1971 and 1984 were unearthed.

Blue Peter presenters

Name Started Ended
1. Christopher Trace 16 October 1958 24 July 1967
2. Leila Williams 16 October 1958 8 January 1962
3. Anita West 7 May 1962 3 September 1962
4. Valerie Singleton 3 September 1962 3 July 1972
5. John Noakes 30 December 1965 26 June 1978
6. Peter Purves 16 November 1967 23 March 1978
7. Lesley Judd 5 May 1972 12 April 1979
8. Simon Groom 15 May 1978 23 June 1986
9. Christopher Wenner 14 September 1978 23 June 1980
10. Tina Heath 5 April 1979 23 June 1980
11. Sarah Greene 19 May 1980 27 June 1983
12. Peter Duncan 11 September 1980
9 September 1985
18 June 1984
27 November 1986
13. Janet Ellis 28 April 1983 29 June 1987
14. Michael Sundin 13 September 1984 24 June 1985
15. Mark Curry 23 June 1986 26 June 1989
16. Caron Keating 13 November 1986 22 January 1990
17. Yvette Fielding 29 June 1987 29 June 1992
18. John Leslie 20 April 1989 20 January 1994
19. Diane-Louise Jordan 25 January 1990 26 February 1996
20. Anthea Turner 14 September 1992 27 June 1994
21. Tim Vincent 16 December 1993 24 January 1997
22. Stuart Miles 27 June 1994 21 June 1999
23. Katy Hill 23 June 1995 19 June 2000
24. Romana D'Annunzio 1 March 1996 20 February 1998
25. Richard Bacon 21 February 1997 19 October 1998
26. Konnie Huq 1 December 1997  
27. Simon Thomas 8 January 1999 25 April 2005
28. Matt Baker 25 June 1999  
29. Liz Barker 23 June 2000  
30. Z÷e Salmon 23 December 2004  
31. Gethin Jones 27 April 2005  

For many years, Anita West was not officially recognised as a Blue Peter presenter, having stood in for several months between Leila Williams leaving the show and a full-time replacement being found. West was finally added to the official list of presenters at the time of Blue Peter's 40th anniversary celebrations in 1998.

Of the total of 31 presenters who have fronted the programme during its lifetime, one or two have failed to live up to the "squeaky-clean" image required of them. The most famous scandal involving a presenter occurred in 1998, when Richard Bacon had his contract terminated after publicly confessing to having taken cocaine.

The programme maintains friendly links with most of its former presenters, many of whom have made further appearances on the show after leaving, particularly in the show's christmas specials.

Apart from the presenters, other people who have played important roles on the show include the zoologist George Cansdale, who was the programme's first on-screen vet, and Percy Thrower who was the show's resident gardening expert from the 1960s until shortly before his death in 1988. He was followed by Clare Bradley and she was replaced by the current Blue Peter gardener, Chris Collins. Another important contributor, though rarely seen on screen, was Margaret Parnell, who created almost all of Blue Peter's "makes" from the early 1960s until her retirement in 2001. Her role is now filled by Gillian Shearing, though Parnell's name still appears in the credits from time to time when a classic "make" is re-used.

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