Celebrating 60 years of Blue Peter in pictures

Blue Peter presenters through the years

Blue Peter, the world’s longest running children’s television show, turns 60 on Tuesday.

In six decades, Blue Peter has seen 37 presenters – along with cats, dogs and tortoises – entertain and educate children over more than 5,000 episodes.

The show first aired on 16 October 1958, in an episode that lasted just 15 minutes. It was intended to fill a gap in the BBC’s output for children, serving those of primary school age in a weekly magazine programme.

The first presenters were Christopher Trace and Leila Williams, seen below.

Leila Williams and Christopher Trace seen on Blue Peter

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Leila Williams and Christopher Trace kicked the show off

Williams had been crowned Miss Great Britain the previous year. After she recorded the first programme she recalled going home to be greeted by her excited landlady who thought the show was a success.

Trace had military and acting background, and was the stand-in for Charlton Heston in blockbuster Ben-Hur.

He is cited as coming up with two of the best-known phrases associated with Blue Peter: “And now for something completely different,” and “Here’s one I made earlier.”

Created by BBC producer John Hunter Blair, the show was named after the flag flown by ships preparing to set sail, to symbolise a voyage of adventure and discovery.

The ship’s symbol, the Blue Peter Galleon, was designed by TV artist Tony Hart for a fee of £100. The theme tune is called Barnacle Bill, with several versions having been produced over the years.

The Blue Peter studio in 1963

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Behind the scenes of the Blue Peter studio in 1963

Presentational white space

Christopher Trace is seen with presenter Valerie SingletonImage copyright
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Christopher Trace is seen with fellow presenter Valerie Singleton in 1963, surrounded by mailbags of children’s toys donated for Christmas presents during the programme’s annual appeal

Biddy Baxter became the show’s editor and producer from 1962 until 1988. Baxter was one of the few BBC producers to become a household name, and she was awarded an MBE in 1981.

In an interview with the BBC, Baxter said: “A real bonus of working at television centre was the magic of being involved with a live programme, because there are no second chances, the co-operation you get is absolutely sensational.

Biddy Baxter reads lettersImage copyright
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Biddy Baxter seen reading letters from fans with a feline companion in 1968

“We were always keen to put unusual and unexpected things in the studio.”

One famous example of an unexpected event was the guest appearance of Lulu the baby Indian elephant in 1969.

John Noakes, Valerie Singleton, and Peter Purves with Lulu the elephant

Lulu’s restlessness proved too much for her keeper, who was pulled around the studio as she ran rings around presenters John Noakes, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves.

In the excitement, Lulu had a “toilet accident” on the studio floor live on air, with the keeper slipping in the mess in a moment of Blue Peter slapstick.

Singleton, Noakes and Purves are considered by many to have been the most famous presenters of Blue Peter.

The trio are seen below with Petra the dog, Jason the Siamese cat and Shep the dog.

Peter Purves with Petra the dog, Valerie Singleton holding Jason, the Siamese cat and John Noakes with Shep the dog, on Blue Peter

A regular feature that became popular during Blue Peter’s early years was the tradition of showing viewers how to make Christmas decorations.

The advent candle decoration seen below with Noakes was a classic example but would probably not meet today’s Health and Safety guidelines.

John Noakes with the Blue Peter advent calender

Blue Peter badges have become synonymous with the show, earned by those who appeared on the programme. The first badge was awarded on 17 June 1963.

Presenter Lesley Judd is seen below pinning a badge onto a guest in the 1970s.

Lesley Judd pinning a gold Blue Peter badge onto a child.

There are six types of badge: blue, green, silver, purple, orange and gold.

Each colour denotes a different kind of achievement, with the gold badge being Blue Peter’s highest award, only given to people who have shown outstanding bravery and courage, or have represented their country in an international event.

A girl and a boy hold up a green Blue Peter badgeImage copyright

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A green Blue Peter badge is awarded to viewers for environmental achievements

Famous guests on the show have received a badge, including Madonna, Tony Blair, Dawn French and David Tennant.

The Queen received a gold badge in 2001, seen below with presenters, from different eras, Simon Thomas, Valerie Singleton, John Leslie, Konnie Huq and Matt Baker joined by previous Blue Peter editor Steve Hocking.

The Queen is presented with a Blue Peter badge

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Former Blue Peter editor Steve Hocking (left), with the Queen, John Leslie (back), Konnie Huq (first right of the Queen) Matt Baker and Simon Thomas (front right)

Other recipients of gold Blue Peter badges include David Beckham, JK Rowling, Torvill and Dean. It has also become tradition to present a leaving presenter with a gold badge on their final show.

Below we bring you more memories of some of the 37 presenters in action from six decades of Blue Peter.

From left to right below, Christopher Wenner, Lesley Judd, Goldie the show’s pet dog, Tina Heath and Simon Groom are seen in 1979.

Blue Peter presenters Christopher Wenner, Lesley Judd, 'Goldie' the dog, Tina Heath and Simon GroomImage copyright
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Presenter Sarah Greene is seen below in 1981 with Morph, another children’s TV favourite. Greene was the programme’s 11th presenter.

One of her most memorable moments was when she went diving to see the Mary Rose ship. When learning to dive she met former presenter Mike Smith who she went on to marry.

Presenter Sarah Greene seen in 1981

Janet Ellis was a Blue Peter presenter between 1983 and 1987. During her time on the show she went free-fall parachute jumping with the RAF. She is seen below with Goldie and K9 from Doctor Who.

Janet Ellis with Goldie the dog and K9 from Doctor Who

Mark Curry and Caron Keating were presenters in the late 1980s. During his tenure, Curry climbed up British telecom telegraph poles and Keating went diving with sharks.

Mark Curry and Caron Keating

Yvette Fielding, seen below on the left with Keating and Curry, joined Blue Peter aged 18 in 1987, replacing Greene and becoming the show’s youngest presenter.

Fielding performed with the Moscow State Circus and also trained Bonnie the dog.

Yvette Fielding with Caron Keating and Mark Curry

Anthea Turner, presenter from 1992 to 1994, holds a place in Blue Peter history as the queen of arts and crafts and the creator of the legendary Thunderbirds Tracy Island.

Many remember the resourceful instructions given by Turner on how to build the model out of toilet rolls, foil, cardboard and scrunched newspaper.

Blue Peter received more than 100,000 requests for the Tracy Island factsheet in 1993.

Turner still has the original model she made, seen below in 2015.

Anthea Turner holding a Tracy Island model in 2015Image copyright

Diane-Louise Jordan, Stuart Miles and Tim Vincent (left to right) were presenters in the 1990s. During Jordan’s time on the show she presented a memorable report from Auschwitz.

Blue Peter presenters Diane-Louise Jordan, Stuart Miles and Tim Vincent

The 1990s also saw presenters Katy Hill, Richard Bacon and Konnie Huq (left to right below).

Huq became the longest running female Blue Peter presenter, presenting the show for 11 years until 2008. One of her memorable moments includes visiting Bangladesh and speaking to members of her extended family who she had not seen for many years.

Presenters Katy Hill, Richard Bacon and Konnie Huq

Simon Thomas is seen below in Peru taking part in the Blue Peter Stamp Aid Appeal in 2000. He applied for the job three times before becoming Blue Peter’s 27th presenter.

Simon Thomas with one of the children the stamps will help in Peru

In the 2000s, the presenters (along with Huq) included Zoe Salmon, Gethin Jones, Liz Barker and Matt Baker (clockwise left to right below).

With Meg the dog, they are seen launching the Blue Peter Treasure Trail Appeal in 2005, asking children to donate old and foreign coins, loose coins and unwanted mobile phones, to help raise money for ChildLine.

Konnie Huq, Zoe Salmon, Gethin Jones, Liz Barker and Matt Baker with Meg the dog

In 2009, presenters Joel DeFries, Helen Skelton, and Andy Akinwolere (below left to right) travelled to Turkey with the Blue Peter bus.

Blue Peter presenters Joel DeFries, Helen Skelton and Andy Akinwolere

The show is famous for its dynasty of pets, including dogs, cats, tortoises and parrots.

An early Blue Peter dog is Honey, seen below in 1965 with presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton.

Honey the dog with presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton.Image copyright
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Shep was a much-loved Blue Peter dog, seen below as a puppy with with John Noakes in 1971.

Shep the dog with John Noakes in 1971Image copyright
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George the tortoise was the longest-serving pet, who made his first appearance in 1982. He is seen below in 1986 with presenter Peter Duncan. When George died in 2004 he was around 81 years old.

Peter Duncan with the Blue Peter tortoise, George in 1986

Bonnie the dog was on Blue Peter for 13 years and co-starred with 13 presenters.

She is seen below when she retired from the show in 1999 with presenters (left to right) Katy Hill, Konnie Huq and Simon Thomas. She was awarded a Blue Peter badge for her services to the programme.

Bonnie the dog with Katy Hill, Konnie Huq, Simon Thomas

The current Blue Peter presenters, Lindsey Russell and Radzi Chinyanganya, are the the 36th and 37th presenters. They are seen below on this year’s Sport Relief.

Lindsey Russell and Radzi Chinyanganya on Sport Relief in 2018

The pair are seen below interviewing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2017.

Lindsay Russell and Radzi Chinyanganya with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

To mark the 60th birthday of Blue Peter, previous presenters will be joining Russell and Chinyanganya for a live special episode on 16 October at 5pm BST on CBBC.

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