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Blue Peter

Blue Peter is a BBC television programme for children. It is shown on CBBC, both in its BBC One programming block and on the CBBC Channel.

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.

History

The programme was first aired on 16 October 1958. It had been commissioned to John Hunter Blair by the head of children's programmes, Owen Reed who wanted a programme aimed at children aged five to eight. The first two presenters were Christopher Trace, an actor and Leila Williams, winner of Miss Great Britain in 1957. The initial format involved the two presenters demonstrating different activities, with Trace concentrating on traditional "boys' toys" such as model aeroplanes and trains, and Williams concentrating on dolls and traditional female tasks, such as cookery. Occasionally, Tony Hart, an artist who later designed the ship logo, joined the programme to tell stories. It was broadcast once a week on Monday, for fifteen minutes.

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.

Airtime

When the programme first started it was shown once a week. From the 1960s until 1995 it was shown twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, originally before 5:00pm and from the mid-1970s at 5:10 to 5:35pm. Between 1995 and 2001: Monday, Wednesday and Friday on BBC One from 5:10 to 5:35pm. From 2002, it was aired at 5:00pm, because Newsround was moved to a later slot. In 2006 it was broadcast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. From 2007, still at 5pm but on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. In May 2007, the BBC announced that the show would be reduced to twice a week and this was implemented from September 2007 onwards, with programmes now broadcast on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The BBC claims that the purpose of returning to two shows a week is to increase the quality of the programme's content rather than simply a means of reducing production costs. In February 2008, Blue Peter moved to a new regular timeslot of 4:35pm on both Tuesday and Wednesday in order to allow for the broadcast of Weakest Link on BBC One. It is now closer to its original broadcast time in the 1960s.

In the Wimbledon tennis season the show moves temporarily to BBC Two.

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.

Content

Blue Peter's content is very wide-ranging. Most programmes are broadcast live, but usually include at least one filmed report. There will also often be a demonstration of an activity in the studio, and/or a music or dance performance. The programme is made at BBC Television Centre, and often came from Studio 1, which is the second largest TV studio in Britain and amongst the largest in Europe. This enabled Blue Peter to include large-scale demonstrations and performances within the live programme. From the September 2007 series, the programme is broadcast from a small fixed set in Studio 2. The show is also famous for its "makes", which are demonstrations of how to construct a useful object or prepare food. These have given rise to the oft-used 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.

Signature tune and motif

The signature tune, in recognition of the origin of the title, is a sea shanty. Originally the programme used variations of "Barnacle Bill", but from the 2008 series onwards it became a rendition of the similar Sailors Hornpipe. The programme's motif is a stylised sailing ship designed by Tony Hart. Hart's original design was never successfully used in a totally uniform fashion, with several different reproductions used in studio, on badges, the Blue Peter books and on-screen graphics. This was until the show's redesign in 1999, when the ship's rigging and hull detail was removed, and in 2000, the flags were subtly reshaped. For the 2008 series there has been a return to the original flag design on the ship, although some of the mast detail on the bow and stern has been removed.

Appeals

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.

Pets

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.

Garden

The presenters also maintain the famous Blue Peter Garden, adjacent to Television Centre, which was designed by Percy Thrower. Its features include an Italian sunken garden with 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 2029, is buried there. George the Tortoise was interred in the garden following his death in 2004, and there is also a bust of Petra, sculptures of Mabel and the Blue Peter ship, and a plaque in honour of Percy Thrower. The garden is also available to other programmes for outside broadcasts, and is often used for the links between children's programmes during the summer months and for BBC One's Breakfast weather broadcasts.

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

Annual events

The programme also marks annual events, including Chinese New Year, St David's Day, Shrove Tuesday, Mothering Sunday, Guy Fawkes Night and Christmas. The latter, in particular, is a special occasion with a traditional format repeated year on year.

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.

Book awards
Blue Peter promotes the Blue Peter Book Awards, a series of literary prizes for children's literature awarded annually, and inaugurated in 2000.

Traditions

The programme 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" back in the 1970s for the products marketed under the trade names Fablon and Coverlon. Sellotape was often referred to by the term "sticky tape", barring one incident in which John Noakes used the trade name and remarked as an aside 'I'll get shot for that'. Similarly, many makes called for the use of a Velcro type material, which was referred to as "self sticking material". An extreme example of avoiding criticism occurred in February 2005, when the show ran a feature on how Nestlé Smarties are made, without once mentioning the name of the product.

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.

Badge

Children (and occasionally adults) who appear on the show or achieve something notable may be awarded the coveted Blue Peter badge. The Blue Peter badge allows holders free entry into a number of visitor attractions across the UK. In March 2006, this privilege was temporarily suspended after a number of badges were discovered for sale on the auction site eBay by a number of people. This suspension was lifted in June 2006, when a new 'Blue Peter Badge Card' was introduced to combat the problem. Each badge winner is now issued with an ID card to prove that they are the rightful owners. The original badge was slightly smaller in size than the current version, but still featured a blue coloured ship logo printed on a white plastic shield. This remained unchanged until the 1990s when a revised badge featuring a raised moulding of the ship design by Tony Hart was introduced (more detailed and neat than the previous printed reproduction). This version disappeared in 1997 when the old-style badge returned. It was not until 2004, coinciding with the show's September revamp, that a new badge was introduced. Slightly larger in dimension and with a much bolder printing of the new-style traditional ship without its rigging detail (though the pre-2000 style flags remain). In October 2003, to celebrate the 45th birthday of the programme, a new, limited edition, badge was introduced, to last only a year. This moulding was made of rubber and larger than the traditional badge. It consisted of a white shield with a raised 'bubble ship' applique.

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:

  • Blue Badges (a white shield with a blue ship print) are given to viewers who have stories, poems, pictures etc.
  • Silver badges (a blue shield with silver ship print) are given to viewers or participants who have already won a blue badge.
  • Green badges (green shield with white ship print) and a Blue Peter pedometer are awarded for any correspondence from viewers with a conservation, nature or environmental theme (in addition, the presenters often wear this badge when their reports deal with such issues, or when in the garden).
  • Gold badges (a gold-plated ship-shaped pin brooch) are very rarely awarded and are usually given only to people who have performed acts of extreme bravery, represented their country in a major event and so on. The gold badge has been awarded on several occasions to famous film actors and sportspeople. When presenter Simon Thomas left in 2005, he was awarded a gold badge on his last programme which has started a trend in which Liz Barker and Matt Baker were also given them when they departed. Valerie Singleton was awarded a gold badge during a studio interview recorded for the 1990 video release "The Best of Blue Peter, the 60's and 70's". Her fellow presenters John Noakes and Peter Purves were given gold badges on the first programme in 2000 when the box for the year 2000 was dug up. Peter Duncan was presented with a gold badge in February 2007, whilst appearing on the programme as a guest. The most recent former presenter to be given a gold badge was Konnie Huq on her last live show appearance in January 2008. Also in recent times Zoe Salmon and Gethin Jones have been awarded one. The Queen was presented with a gold badge by Simon Thomas during her tour of the Blue Peter studio as part of an official visit to BBC Television Centre on November 28, 2001. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, received a gold badge on July 20, 2007.
  • Orange Badges (a orange shield with a white print ship) is won by entering a competition. This newly introduced orange badge was introduced in September 2007 and replaced the competition winner's badge.
  • The Competition badge was previously a round metal disc in white, with the blue ship, printed with the words 'Blue Peter Competition Winner'. However, after more than 40 years, it has recently been redesigned to look similar to the other badges, and is now an orange shield with a white ship. These badges are awarded to all winners and runners-up of Blue Peter competitions - with the new look badges being introduced in September 2006.
  • The new Team Player's badge (a purple shield with white ship print), which was introduced in September 2006, will be given to 12 children every month, who have ideas for the show; these children will also win the chance to spend a day working with the Blue Peter team. This was the first new badge to be introduced since 1988.
  • The limited edition Birthday Badge (very similar to blue badge but has a raised moulding of the Millennium bubble ship used between 1999-2004, and is made out of rubber) was awarded in the year of the 45th Birthday, in place, or with a blue badge. It is a rare edition.

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.

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.

Signature tune

The Blue Peter opening theme called "Barnacle Bill" from 1958 - 2008 was composed by Ashworth Hope (1880-1962), who was a successful solicitor as well as a composer.

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".

Opening titles

1958-1989: Blue Peter's titles sequence consisted of little more than film footage of the day's filming assignment or introductory studio setting footage of that day's edition accompanied by the theme music and the superimposing of the "Blue Peter" name and presenter credits. The theme music would either play out in full, or fade out appropriately depending on the programme's content.

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.

Closing credits

1958-1992: The Blue Peter closing credits were put on screen over the final moments of the programme to the sound of the closing theme tune. Alternatively, once the programme had officially ended (i.e. the presenters had said their 'goodbyes') the camera would focus on shots of the pets or aspects of the studio as a calmer backdrop against which to flash up the credits. The sequence would always end with the Blue Peter ship filling the screen (originally a rather crude flat image, latterly a more graphically interesting incarnation) and BBC copyright blurb. Before 1989 the "Editor" credit (for almost all this period it was Biddy Baxter) would also flash up over the final moments of the programme, but since Lewis Bronze's promotion the editor credit was saved for the final ship frame.

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".

Books

In 1964, the first Blue Peter book was published. Although an annual in all but name, the books are rarely referred to as such. Each book (published in time for Christmas) features highlights from the previous twelve months of Blue Peter features, and chronicles major guests who visit the studio, the Summer expedition, the annual appeal, and the pets. The style of the books' contents has changed very little over the years, with the only noticeable difference between a 1960s book and the current formula being the increase in colour photography and digital artwork; otherwise, the principle is the same. There was, in the mid-1980s and between 1992-1998, a break in the publication of the books. Since Pedigree took over the books in 2004, there has been an increase in quality. The books are now bigger than before, with a greater number of pages. The Blue Peter editor and members of the production team write the book, and choose its content, though the book is written from the presenters' point of view. As for the 'book or annual' debate, it is interesting to note that, as of Book 34 in 2004, the cover makes reference to it as 'Annual XXXX' and the spine marking it as 'Book XX'. This is probably because The Beano and The Dandy Books were renamed as annuals in 2003, leaving Blue Peter the only one still using the name book on its annuals.

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.

Presenters

Christopher Trace and Leila Williams were the first presenters of Blue Peter in October 1958, and since then, there have been 32 other presenters with Helen Skelton and Joel Defries the latest to join in September 2008, replacing Zöe Salmon and Gethin Jones who both left in June 2008.

Other contributors

Other people who have played 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 gardening expert from the 1960s until shortly before his death in 1988. He was followed briefly by Chris Crowder, and then Clare Bradley, who was replaced by the current incumbent, Chris Collins.

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.

Controversy

Fake phone competition winner

It was revealed by the BBC that a phone-in competition supporting the Unicef "Shoe Biz Appeal", held in November 2006, was rigged. The person who appeared to be calling in the competition was actually a Blue Peter Team Player who was visiting that day. The visitor pretended to be a caller from an outside line who had won the phone-in and the chance to select a prize. The competition was rigged due to a technical error with receiving the calls.

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.

Political partiality

In August 2007 while the programme was off air for its annual Summer Expedition. The news concerned long-time presenter Konnie Huq who had recently been involved in a press conference to promote the health benefits of cycling along with Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The Conservative Party accused the BBC of political bias as a result of one of its employees appearing at what was construed as a pro-Labour Party event. The BBC claimed to have turned down the offer for Huq to appear, but this was unknown to both her and her agent.

"Socks"

Blue Peter hit the headlines again with new breaches of trust in September 2007; an online vote on the BBC's Blue Peter official website took place to choose the name of the new Blue Peter kitten in January - but instead of calling the cat Cookie, the name chosen by a majority of votes, the staff over-ruled the decision and called the kitten Socks; fearing that the name Cookie would have some influence on child obesity. However, the original cat Socks was joined by another kitten named Cookie to reflect the decision of those who participated in the online vote. The BBC broadcast an apology on 25 September 2007 at the start of the new series.

Actors used as competition winners

On 9 November 2007 the BBC admitted that two viewers chosen to meet comedian and actor Jon Culshaw in a competition were in fact child actors. An interview with a BBC spokesman stated-

"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."

Trivia

  • The two most famous phrases associated with Blue Peter — 'And now for something completely different' (later made synonymous with Monty Python) and 'Here's one I made earlier' — were both coined by one of its first presenters, Christopher Trace.
  • Tony Hart originally asked for his design fee for the Blue Peter badges to be paid as a royalty of 1p for each badge made, but was offered a flat fee of £100 (equivalent to around £1,600 at 2006 rates).
  • Queen Elizabeth II visited the studio as part of her Golden Jubilee. There she was presented with a Gold badge, which allowed her free entrance into places such as the Tower of London and the public sections of her own house, Buckingham Palace.
  • The oldest presenter was John Noakes, leaving at the age of 45.
  • Yvette Fielding was the youngest presenter on Blue Peter, starting at the age of 18.
  • On 1 October 2007, Konnie Huq overtook Valerie Singleton as the longest-serving female (third longest overall) presenter of all time (9 years and 10 months), and also became the first female (third overall) presenter to serve for a full ten years on 1 December 2007. Huq's last live show aired on 22 January 2008, after presenting 966 programmes overall.
  • Blue Peter showed its first pet dog in 1963, but after the first episode the dog died from canine distemper. It was secretly replaced by a lookalike dog, who was named Petra, in subsequent episodes. She gave birth to eight puppies in 1965, one of which, Patch, became John Noakes' pet when he began presenting in 1965.

See also

References

External links

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