Blue Peter’s presenters from last 60 years all get together for birthday bash
For Blue Peter’s 60th birthday project you will not need sticky-backed plastic or even a washing up bottle… but a line-up of every living person who has been a presenter on our most treasured children’s show.
And almost all of them made it to the diamond birthday celebrations at the show’s base in Salford Quays, including John Leslie, who has faced a string of sex allegations, and Richard Bacon, who was fired after he admitted snorting cocaine.
Leslie, 53, had been expected to snub the party, after failing to reply to the invitation for some weeks.
But, having returned to This Morning’s sofa before the daytime series’ 30th anniversary this summer, he decided not to miss the bash for Blue Peter, which he hosted from 1989 to 1994.
Similarly Bacon, 42, was happy to attend, 20 years after he was sacked, leaving in disgrace after just 18 months in the job.
Bacon, who has since worked on BBC Radio 5 Live, tweeted that he was thrilled to be back.
In an emotional post, he declared: “I can never hold down a job for long. I’ve hosted a lot of shows in a lot of places. And yet the one I have the most affection for is the one I got fired from. Happy Birthday Blue Peter. I love you.
“Like a departing member of the LAPD, I had to hand in my badge 20 years ago. Hoping to get it back.”
As last night’s live birthday show on CBBC ended, he revealed he had shared an emotional moment with another former presenter Peter Purves, 79, who pinned a Blue Peter badge to his chest and told him “welcome back to the fold”.
Leila Williams, 81, a presenter on the first ever Blue Peter show in 1958, was joined for the 60th birthday celebrations by those who followed in her footsteps.
They included Valerie Singleton, Gethin Jones, Katy Hill, Tim Vincent, Anthea Turner and Janet Ellis, Zoe Salmon, Lesley Judd, Sarah Greene, Peter Duncan, Yvette Fielding, Diane-Louise Jordan, Stuart Miles, Konnie Huq, Simon Thomas, Liz Barker, Andy Akinwolere and Barney Harwood.
Asked whether she thought the show would still be going strong 60 years later when she hosted that first 15-minute episode in black and white, Leila said: “Not in a million years.”
Biddy Baxter, 85, who was Blue Peter’s editor from 1965 to 1988 and is credited with creating its format, was also there to celebrate its enduring appeal.
And Peter Purves, presenter for a decade from 1967, said that after 5,000 episodes, the programme’s values were very much intact. He said: “I don’t think it’s changed much at all, but young people watch it very differently thanks to modern technology.”
Simon Groome and Mark Curry were unable to attend due to illness.
But 57-year-old Curry was replaced with a Lego version of himself. Matt Baker, 40, was also missing, but he sent a message from London, where he was presenting The One Show, describing Blue Peter as “the best programme ever”.
The show was devised by BBC producer John Hunter Blair, who had been asked by the then head of children’s programming Owen Reed, to devise a series for five to eight-year-olds. The show has since had 37 presenters, 25 pets and one million badges. More than 100,000 letters are received annually and almost 200,000 children own at least one Blue Peter badge.
Singer Ed Sheeran , 27, last night joined the very select few who have been awarded a gold Blue Peter badge.
Blue Peter anniversary
Handing it over, current presenter Lindsey Russell told Ed: “Our viewers like to be inspired and entertained and that’s exactly what you’ve done with your incredible musical talent.
“So, in honour of your passion for British music and also your amazing success, we’d like to honour you with our highest accolade, the one and only Gold Blue Peter badge.”
Ed told her: “Banging. Me and the Queen. I might keep it next to my MBE – because it’s kind of like a similar honour, isn’t it?”
Asked which meant more to him, he said: “I think they’re on the same level. The Queen has a Gold Blue Peter badge, she doesn’t have an MBE, so maybe this is the one.”
He said his family had been fans of Blue Peter for generations. He said: “My parents got me into it and their parents got them into it. And I’ll probably get my kids into it.
“It works for all generations. Happy Birthday, Blue Peter. Sixty years, that’s an amazing achievement and here’s to 60 years more. Thank you for always inspiring kids to be creative.”
Others to be honoured with gold badges in the past include Sir David Attenborough, JK Rowling and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
In last night’s Big Birthday show, Lindsey achieved the challenge of a lifetime by completing a solo, hot air balloon flight in the Arctic Circle. Having worked long and hard to pass the exams in order to be allowed to fly single-handedly, she was beside herself with joy to have made it.
She declared: “It feels absolutely awesome. I’m a licensed hot air balloon pilot, flying across a frozen lake. That’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done.”
Fellow presenter Radzi Chinyanganya, 31, boarded the Royal Navy Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and flew above the ship in a helicopter to see the letters BP formed by the servicewomen and men below. “That is first class,” he said.
Blue Peter editor Ewan Vinnicombe later summed up the mood of the day, saying: “Blue Peter is a very special club to be part of.”
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