It is named after the blue-and-white flag hoisted by a ship in port when it is ready to sail. The reasoning behind the choice of title is that the programme is intended to be a voyage of adventure and discovery for the viewers, constantly covering new topics.
Over the years, the programme changed to reflect the times. The running time extended to 25 minutes, and at one point was shown three times a week on BBC One. The 4000th edition was broadcast on 14 March 2005. Most episodes are still broadcast live, although during the 1990s and early 2000s, when a third edition of the show was broadcast, the third programme was pre-recorded.
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 the foresight and initiative of editor Biddy Baxter, as she personally ensured that telerecordings and, from 1970, video copies were kept of the episodes. 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.
Blue Peter has had a longstanding relationship with Doctor Who, often running features on the show with appearances by actors and behind-the-scenes personnel. One notable contest in 1967 had viewers design a monster in the style of those featured on Doctor Who. A similar competition was held in 2005 to help design a new monster for one of the episodes, which became the Abzorbaloff in "Love & Monsters". In 1973, two Dalek props were stolen from the BBC and Blue Peter viewers helped in their return after an appeal for help was shown on the programme. A clip of Matt Baker making an 'alien' cake was used in the 2005 Doctor Who story, "Aliens of London". One programme asked viewers to help recover the lost footage of Doctor Who.
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, trod on presenter John Noakes' foot 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' campfire 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 beautiful 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, while wearing a suit of armour, 'Once a king always a king, but once a (k)night is enough', while Peter Duncan's cookery instructions to 'finely chop one raw egg', Yvette Fielding's disastrous attempt to cook a pancake and Mark Curry driving a mini sit-on traction engine into part of the set will also go in the annals.
There have also been times when the show has broadcast breaking news in the days before 24-hour news channels. A notable example was the first colour images on British television of the sinking of the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1972.
During the 1980s the two weekly editions were repeated on BBC2 on Sunday mornings under the title "Blue Peter Omnibus", with a special linking piece recorded by one of the presenting team.
Blue Peter Special Assignment was launched around 1972, following the success of the Blue Peter Royal Safari which was shown in 1971. Valerie Singleton had accompanied HRH Princess Anne on a trip to Kenya with the Save The Children charity. The resulting documentary was shown originally on BBC1 on a Sunday afternoon and repeated often. Singleton then left Blue Peter full time to present the Special Assignment series, which was heavily promoted on Blue Peter itself. Originally she visited European capital cities, with the first report coming from Rome and featuring a meeting with Pope Paul in the Vatican. Later, the series investigated islands, historic homes and other topics. Lesley Judd, Peter Purves and Simon Groom also presented the programme in the late 1970s. The final series was shown in 1981 on Sunday afternoons, when Singleton and Purves presented five programmes looking at rivers.
Since the birth of the CBBC Channel, the series has had additional strands such as Blue Peter Flies the World and Blue Peter Unleashed. From 2004-2005 the series was shown every weekday on CBBC with a mixture of repeated BBC One editions, additional live programmes, Blue Peter Flies the World and specials. During the show's summer hiatus, Blue Peter Flies the World, recalling the previous year's summer trip, was often shown on BBC1 throughout the 1970s and 1980's.
Other spin-offs from the series included Go With Noakes and Duncan Dares which starred John Noakes with his dog Shep and Peter Duncan respectively. Treasure Houses hosted by Mark Curry was also very much in keeping with the Blue Peter Special Assignment brand. All these shows were transmitted in the weekday BBC1 children's schedules.
An enduring feature of the programme is the annual charity appeal, which asks viewers to collect items that can be recycled or sold to raise money for the chosen cause. This 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 of the following year. Until 1979, only waste products were ever collected, such as stamps, linens, coins, scrap metal etc. In 1979, one of the most popular forms of raising appeal money was introduced; encouraging viewers to hold "Blue Peter Bring And Buy Sales" at which buyers are also encouraged to bring their own bric-a-brac or produce to sell. The Great Bring And Buy Sale was used every few years or so as a means of adding variety to the collecting theme during other years.
Between 2001 and 2003 a series of "Bring And Buy Appeals" led many viewers and the media to voice their concern that the traditional method of collecting scrap items to recycle was being abandoned in favour of the "easier revenue" generated by the sales. This led to an on-air explanation by presenter Konnie Huq during the 2003 Get Together Appeal that this particular appeal required the sort of funding that only Bring And Buy Sales could raise. The 2004 and 2005 appeals saw a return to the collecting theme: the first being to collect old clothes that Oxfam could sell in its stores to raise funds for a family-searching service in third world countries ravaged by war, and the second being the collection of old mobile telephones and coins that could be recycled to raise money for ChildLine. Continuing the return to collecting unwanted items, Blue Peter launched its Shoe Biz Appeal campaign in 2006. In partnership with UNICEF, its aim was to collect unwanted pairs of shoes or other footwear in order to raise money for children orphaned by AIDS and HIV in Malawi. The 2007 appeal was the "Disc Drive" - working with Barnardo's to sell unwanted CDs and DVDs.
During appeals, the sum of money or objects collected is presented on the totaliser - a display that lights to show the amount collected. With some appeals, a second totaliser has often been introduced immediately after the original target has been met, with the aim of providing an incentive to keep on donating.
The 2007 appeal has been handled in a different editorial style, as mentions of it have not been featured in each programme since its launch as in the previous years. Also the totaliser, before part of the studio set, is now an on-screen animation / graphic.
Overall since the first appeal started Blue Peter has raised over £100 Million by appeals alone.
The Blue Peter pets are the animals who regularly appear on the BBC children's television series Blue Peter. These include dogs, cats, parrots and tortoises. The current Blue Peter Pets are: two dogs, a Golden Retriever called Lucy and a Blue Merle Border Collie called Mabel; two cats, one called Socks and one called Cookie; and one tortoise called Shelly.
On 21 November 1983, the garden was vandalised, leading to an on-air appeal for viewers to come forward with information — which now often appears on clip shows. A rumour circulated in the early 1990s that the vandalism had been carried out by a gang including the footballers Dennis Wise and Les Ferdinand when they were teenagers. Both men have denied direct involvement in the actual vandalism, although Ferdinand did later confess to "helping a few people over the wall. Later still, however, Ferdinand claimed that this admission of involvement had merely been a joke, and that he had not been involved at all.
The BBC is considering selling Television Centre, and moving its entire CBBC operations to Manchester. This puts into doubt the future of the Blue Peter garden. There are also however plans to make the entire BBC Television Centre a Grade II listed building
The Christmas programme opens with the signature tune being replaced with a brass band arrangement of the carol "Good King Wenceslas" juxtaposed with shots of viewers' homemade Christmas cards. The programme's Christmas manger figures are featured, reminding viewers of the Nativity story, a last-minute Christmas make, either a song and dance or filming assignment and the grand finale; the Chalk Farm Salvation Army Band and children from local schools marching "up the hill" and into the studio from the cold outside (lanterns in hand!) singing a Christmas carol (alternating years between either "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "O! Come All Ye Faithful") around the Blue Peter Christmas tree. Much of the script has been repeated year after year for this special programme. However, for the 2007 Christmas programme, none of these traditions were featured, ending a format repeated annually since the 1960s.
The Blue Peter Summer Expedition is another long-running tradition. These visits focus on a single country and are filmed while the programme is off the air from June to September.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the programme sometimes included a cartoon series as "light relief" from some of the more informative articles. One such was Bleep and Booster, which started in 1963 and continued in the Blue Peter books until 1977. A similar idea was explored in The Quest series, broadcast as part of Friday programmes in the early 2000s, and in which the presenters would play the parts of good and bad guys outwitting a common enemy. The Quest ran for several series, building up the mystery with a new instalment of the puzzle every week, often including guest appearances by former Blue Peter presenters, such as Valerie Singleton and Peter Duncan, and famous performers, such as Jean Marsh.
In the early 1960s the "Advent Crown" was introduced. It consists of two wire coat hangers tied together with garden twine and decorated with fireproof tinsel with candles placed at each of the four corners. (Most years this appears on-screen as one of the programme's "makes"). Unlike a religious advent crown, with one candle lit for each Sunday before Christmas, Blue Peter presenters took it in turns to light one candle for each of the last four programmes before Christmas, though the last few years have seen a change to a more Christian process of lighting one candle on the four Monday programmes during Advent.
For the 2007 series the traditional "Advent Crown" was replaced with a table decoration featuring the four candles next to the seating unit. The fourth and final candle was lit a week before the Christmas programme.
Many of these long-standing traditions were started during the 1960s and 1970s by the show's editor, Biddy Baxter, along with producers Edward Barnes and Rosemary Gill, and most of them still feature on the programme.
The presenters almost always wear their badge; the only exception being when their apparel is incompatible (for example, a life jacket), in which case a sticker with the ship emblem is normally used instead. In addition, large prints or stickers of the ship are attached to vehicles driven by the presenters during filming assignments. Other badges exist, and are awarded for various achievements:
The 'ultimate' Blue Peter badge is the "Outstanding Endeavour" award that was introduced to the show in 1978. It is circular, made from brass, and bears the show's ship logo. It was presented to the programme on its 20th Anniversary show by original presenter Christopher Trace. Trace was working at a factory at the time and his colleagues made the award to be presented to a viewer who had achieved some remarkable endeavour, such as saving a life or overcoming a particular adversity. It is rarely presented, typically only once a year on the show's anniversary. Some believe the award was devalued when, in 1981, it was presented to the band Musical Youth for having had a number one record.
Sometimes new presenters first appear on the programme with no badge on before it is clarified to the audience that they are the new presenter, for example, Zöe Salmon appeared as a customer on the show before one week later being introduced as a presenter. Simon Groom first appeared during a filming assignment at a disco where he was a DJ. Gethin Jones made a debut appearance disguised as Santa Claus on Zoe Salmon's first appearance.
The following is a list of all the musicians who have recorded a version of the Blue Peter signature tune, "Barnacle Bill" :
The debut of a new version of the famous theme tune "Barnacle Bill" is accompanied with an introduction by the presenters at the time explaining the reasons behind the new rendition. Mike Oldfield appeared on the programme in the late 1970s, and his version of the theme tune was so popular with viewers that the producers decided to record it for use as a permanent theme.
Despite a new rendition of the theme music being introduced in 2004, a new version was arranged by Murray Gold and recorded in 2006, as part of a viewers' competition, with prize winners taking part in the final orchestral recording. Viewers were told that this new version of the theme would be used when the series returned from its summer break in September 2006; however, for unknown reasons, this was not the case, save for excerpts being used as incidental music. Instead, when the September 2006 series began, a slightly shortened version of the 2004 arrangement was used, with the opening bars removed. Between January and June 2007, Dave Cooke re-arranged the theme tune, although it was confirmed that Murray Gold's new arrangement would be used from the new series in September 2007, to coincide with the programme's 50th anniversary celebrations. However, the version that airs bears little resemblance to either the original Murray Gold/Music Makers recording or any previous recording of the theme.
Nearly as famous as the opening music is the closing theme, which has been re-arranged in line with the various versions of the opening signature tune. However, during the period 1999–2004, a shorter version of the opening tune was used to close the programme. The editor at the time, Steve Hocking, said that he was happy for the same tune to be used at the beginning and end of each broadcast, but in recent years the traditional finale tune has returned, with Nial Brown rearranging the closing tune from 2004 to 2006, and Dave Cooke doing so as of January 2007. From September 2007 - June 2008 the closing theme was slightly extended and rearranged, once again by Dave Cooke.
For the 2008 series "Barnacle Bill" was dropped as the signature tune after nearly fifty years of use and replaced by an arrangement of the very similar traditional dance tune "Sailors Hornpipe". The closing theme for 2008 is again bespoke and maintains elements unique to the closing arrangement of "Barnacle Bill".
1989-1997: From 1989, a 2D animation of the Blue Peter ship had been developed and used alongside the 1985-introduced word-logo and was used as a method of displaying both the ship and Blue Peter name to precede any film or episode footage as before. From 1992 a 3D animation was used and further replaced by another graphical sequence in 1994. Once again, these animations preceded any film, studio or episode footage. Occasionally, from the 1994 series onwards, the 3D animation of the Blue Peter ship would be followed by a preview of certain items on the day's programme with a "coming up" caption and a presenter commentary. Again, the theme music would either play in full or fade out at an appropriate time.
1997-1999: From 1997, a more generic title sequence was used with the 1994 ship and title animation remaining, but was followed by clips of different action shots from a variety of the past years’ filming assignments intermixed with specially filmed "posing" footage of the presenters. The traditional format of episode-specific film or studio setting scenes were still used, occasionally on their own, or mixed into the generic footage to varying degrees depending on the day's edition. The theme music tended to play out in full, and on days when a totally generic version of the titles were used, the opening was often followed by a "coming up" sequence narrated by the presenters.
1999-2004: By 1999, a new "bubble ship" symbol and titles sequence had been developed to be used alongside the traditional ship emblem. These bubble ships were seen floating around the presenters who were displayed in specially posed shots, and appeared to be floating above a graphical ocean on their own blue coloured ships, and in 2003 when the presenters shots were updated, they appeared to be waving, smiling and blowing the bubble ships. This footage was also mixed in with episode-specific film, introductory studio setting or more predominantly from the 2003 series onwards a preview of many items on the day's programme with a return to a "coming up" caption and presenter commentary.
2004-2006: In 2004, a similar approach was adopted with each presenter posing with "ship's rigging" in their hands, appearing as though they were hoisting the sails of the Blue Peter ship. This sequence, designed by BBC Broadcast (now Red Bee Media) saw a return to the sole use of the original Blue Peter ship logo and also featured the Blue Peter pets in their own poses. Predominantly these titles would precede a “coming up” sequence or occasionally clips of the edition’s filming assignment. The original version used from 2004-2005 opened with the ship logo and featured silhouettes of unidentified children also hoisting sails along with the presenters. This was discarded in 2005 for the last year of the sequence's run and opened with the ship and Blue Peter name for the first time in six years - allowing more flexibility for when the titles would merge into that day's edition without being completed in full, as in the 1950-1990s era - before flowing into the rest of the titles (minus children) as before. 2006-2008: From September 2006 a new title sequence was introduced, opening with the traditional Blue Peter ship logo, followed by the presenters surrounded by "fact file boxes" displaying statistics and information about them and also pictures of the pets and snippets of previous assignment films. This also marked the end of the traditional format of the presenter credits being credited in order of seniority (although this is likely to be down to the stylistic dictation of the titles in their "girl boy girl boy" arrangement - the only irregularity being Gethin Jones appearing before Zöe Salmon who debuted on the show five months before him). As in previous years, this new graphical sequence precedes a “coming up” sequence or, alternatively, footage of that edition’s filming assignment. From September 2007 the posed portion of the same opening titles followed a "coming up" clip of that day's programme and used a new theme tune to accompany it.
Following Konnie Huq's departure in January 2008, the order of the opening sequence was rejigged slightly, with a filmed aerial pan of a cliff-face taken from a helicopter, featuring a lighthouse and large-scale impression of the Blue Peter ship on a grass lawn adjacent to it. The "chopper" sound of the helicopter's propellers imitates the traditional drum roll of the Blue Peter theme tune. The sequence then merges into a summary of what's coming up on the programme, with a quick cut at the end to the remaining three presenter poses, now having reverted to appearance order, i.e. Zöe > Gethin > Andy, before ending with the 2006-2008 logo board, minus Konnie's silhouette.
2008-present: The current Blue Peter titles see a return to the original format withough posing presenters. Instead, a fast moving graphical approach is taken where the main colour is light blue. The logo board with the new look word logo appears at the end and graphically 'flows' away to reveal the day's programme. This year sees a new word mark for the first time since 1999 and some of the detail has been altered on the ship logo - for example, a return to the original flag design. Small changes have also featured in the studio where the mezzanine wall is now red, the big screen has a new frame and the seating has been re-jigged slightly.
General notes: The opening titles of every programme feature the list of the presenters in order of their first appearance on Blue Peter, regardless of whether they actually appear in the edition in question (since 1995 and the introduction of the fourth presenter it is unusual to have all four presenters in the studio at the same time, save for special programmes). The only time this rule is not adopted is when the programme is a special pre-recorded assignment - for example a visit to a foreign country by two of the presenters, in which case the usual practice is just to credit the presenters appearing. Until 2004, the presenters were always credited by their full names. Since September 2004, the opening titles have only featured their first names, perhaps in a move to make the presenters appear more accessible to the audience.
1992-2003: Once again during this period the credits maintained the practice of appearing during the final seconds of the programme's presentation or once the script had finished. The major difference being that the text was now scrolled along the bottom third of the screen from right to left, usually overlaid on a graphical bar themed around the style of the opening titles of the time. The exception to this rule was when the programme was on permanent Outside Broadcast for the whole show. During these occasions the same "theme" of credits would be used - i.e. same graphics and background etc. but the typeface would almost always change to a completely different font and colour, regardless of the regular typeface used at the time. Also, the credits would flash up on screen one by one, as opposed to scrolling. It is unknown why these anomalies occurred, but it is likely to be related to the reduced technical abilities whilst transmitting a live O.B. The final frame of the credits was always the Blue Peter ship as displayed in the opening titles of the time and the editor's credit, along with BBC branding.
2004-2007: This period saw a sequence which showed flashed up credits along the bottom third of the screen, whilst a photo of a recent Blue Peter badge winner, with or without the project that won them their badge, was shown above. One of the presenters' voices was also heard introducing the winner and explaining what they did to win their badge. Occasionally on certain programmes, for example the launch of an appeal, special guests in the studio or when out on location, the credits ran as pre-2004 over the closing moments of the programme with the music fading in. Again, the credits end with the Blue Peter ship, editor and BBC credit.
2004, 2007-2008: Early in 2004, the producers experimented with flashing up the credits over a background of "on the next Blue Peter" type footage. This was discarded later in 2004 when the new arrangement of signature tune and titles were introduced and a revised format was adopted that remained in use until 2007. September 2007 saw a return to the "coming up next time" sequence of footage, with credits text overlaid on a graphical bar at the bottom section of the screen. The same ship and editor credit is used as the final frame.
2008 - present: The closing titles mirror those of the series right up until 2004 by playing out the closing music over the final moments of the show in the studio. The only difference is that the sequence no longer displayes crew credits. The only on-screen scredit given is the traditional final frame of Blue Peter ship, logo and CBBC motif.
General notes: The exceptions to the above are during the Christmas programme, when the credits still scroll from right to left, often with Christmassy themed drawings separating each crew member. The Christmas programme ends on a view of the children carol singers in the studio in the background, the Nativity scene in the foreground, studio lights dimmed, a star of Bethlehem glowing on the cyclorama and a sparkling silver Blue Peter ship overlaid on the screen.
When a "make" is featured in the programme, the creator of the item (invariably the retired Margaret Parnell or Gillian Shearing) is credited first. An example of this would be "Dolls House make by Margaret Parnell".
A collectors' market has developed, with 'Book One' being especially rare and commanding triple figures on online auction websites. Books from the late 1960s and 1970s are more common, and often turn up for less than a pound in second hand bookshops or charity stores. Books from the 1980s and 1990s tend to be more expensive and rarer, as people realised the value of keeping hold of them.
In the early 1970s a set of Blue Peter mini books were produced, covering specific topics that had been featured in the TV series. A set of these were buried in 1971 in the time capsule for the year 2000. The spin-off series Blue Peter Special Assignment also had books.
Another contributor, though rarely seen on screen, was Margaret Parnell, who created almost all of the show'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.
Former editor Biddy Baxter, described as still being influential with the programme today, described the problem as an issue with a member of the production team on the studio floor and the Editor being oblivious to the situation in the studio gallery. She also went on to say that the programme would not feature premium rate telephone competitions in the future.
It was announced on 16 May 2007 that Blue Peter's editor and unofficial historian, Richard Marson, stood down from his job, although any link to the controversy of March 2007 remains unconfirmed. On a Doctor Who internet forum, Marson stated he had been planning to leave the programme at the end of this series.
In July 2007, Blue Peter was given a £50,000 fine, by the Office of Communications (OFCOM) as a result of rigging the competition.
"Last night a BBC spokesman admitted it was wrong that viewers were given the impression that all the competition winners had contacted the programme through the website.
He said: "Blue Peter organised a light-hearted item in which children got to meet Jon Culshaw and ask him questions which he would answer with an impersonation.
"Of the six children who appeared, four had contacted the programme through the website and two were invited to join them from a drama group.
"The children were all asked to prepare their own questions. None of the children was paid, the item in question was not a competition and no prizes were offered or awarded.
"It would have been preferable not to have given viewers the impression that all the children in the item had contacted the programme through the website."