|Created by||John Hunter Blair|
|Presented by||Gareth Dutton
(List of presenters)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||4,500 – 16 December 2009|
|Location(s)||BBC Television Centre|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC One
|Original run||16 October 1958– present|
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.
Blue Peter was first aired on 16 October 1958. It had been commissioned to producer John Hunter Blair by Owen Reed, the head of children's programmes at the BBC, as there were no programmes in existence that catered for children aged between five and eight. The name "Blue Peter" was thought up by Hunter Blair; the Blue Peter flag, used as a maritime signal, indicates the vessel is about to leave, and Hunter Blair intended the name to represent "a voyage of adventure" on which the programme would set out. Hunter Blair also pointed out that blue was a child's favourite colour, and Peter was the name of a child's friend. The first two presenters were Christopher Trace, an actor, and Leila Williams, winner of Miss Great Britain in 1957. The initial format mostly 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. They were supported on occasion by Tony Hart, an artist who later designed the ship logo, who told stories about an elephant called Packi (or Packie). It was broadcast every Monday for fifteen minutes on BBC tv (which later became BBC One). Blue Peter was popular from the outset, and over the first few months, more features were added such as competitions, documentaries, cartoons, and stories. Early programmes were almost entirely studio-based, with very few external films being created.
In 1961, Hunter Blair became ill, meaning he was often absent from the show. After he produced his last show on 12 June 1961, he was replaced by Clive Parkhurst the following September. He did not get along with Leila Williams, who recalled "he couldn't find anything for me to do", and in October Williams did not appear for six editions leaving Christopher Trace on his own or with one-off presenters. Parkhurst was replaced by John Furness, and Anita West joined Christopher Trace on 7 May 1962. She featured on just 16 editions, making her the shortest serving presenter, and was replaced by Valerie Singleton, who presented regularly until 1972, and on special assignments until 1981. Following Furness's departure, a new producer who was committed to Blue Peter was required, so Biddy Baxter was appointed. However, at the time, Baxter was contracted to schools' programmes on the radio so was unable to take up her new post until October 1962. It was suggested that Edward Barnes, a production assistant, would temporarily produce the show until Baxter arrived, at which point he would become her assistant. This suggestion was turned down, and a more experienced producer, Leonard Chase, was appointed with Barnes as his assistant. Baxter eventually joined Blue Peter at the end of October 1962.
During this period, many iconic features of Blue Peter were introduced. The first appeal took place in December 1962, taking place of the previous practice of reviewing toys that children would ask for themselves. Blue Peter's first pet, a brown and white mongrel dog named Petra was introduced on 17 December 1962. Features such as "makes" (normally involving creating something such as an advent crown out of household junk) and cooking became regular instalments on Blue Peter and continue to be today. The Blue Peter badge was introduced in 1963, along with the programme's new logo designed by Tony Hart. Baxter introduced a system that ensured replies sent to viewers' letters were personal ones; as a girl, she had written to Enid Blyton and received a standard reply twice which had upset her. The following year, from 28 September 1964, Blue Peter began to be broadcast twice weekly, with Baxter becoming the editor and Barnes and Rosemary Gill (an assistant producer who had joined as a temporary producer while Baxter was doing jury service) became the programme's producers. The first Blue Peter book, an annual in all but name, was published this year and have been nearly every year since. A third presenter, John Noakes, was introduced at the end of 1965 and became the longest serving presenter. A complete contrast to Trace, Noakes set the scene for "daredevil" presenters that has continued through the generations of presenters. Trace left Blue Peter in July 1967, and was replaced by Peter Purves in November. The trio of Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves lasted five years, and according to Richard Marson were "the most famous presenting team in the show's history". In 1965, the first "Summer Expedition" (a filming trip abroad) was held in Norway, and have been every year since all over the world.
The first colour edition of Blue Peter aired on 14 September 1970, with the last black and white edition on 24 June 1974. A regular feature of the 1970s were the Special Assignments, which were essentially reports on interesting topics, filmed on location. Singleton took this role, and in effect became the programme's "roving reporter". Blue Peter also offered breaking news on occasion, such as the 1971 eruption of Mount Etna, as well as unique items such as the first appearance of Uri Geller on British television. In May 1976, presenter Lesley Judd interviewed Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, after he had agreed to bring his daughter's diaries to Britain. In 1974, the Blue Peter garden was officially opened in a green space outside the television centre restaurant block. By this time, Blue Peter had become an established children's programme, with regular features which have since become traditions. Its theme music was updated by Mike Oldfield in 1979, and at the end of the decade a new presenting team were brought in, consisting of Simon Groom, Tina Heath and Christopher Wenner. They were, however, overshadowed by the success of the previous two decades, and failed to make an impact. Heath decided to leave after just a year when she discovered she was pregnant, but agreed to have a live scan of her baby, something which had never been done on television. Blue Peter was praised for this by the National Childbirth Trust who told the BBC that in "five minutes, Blue Peter had done more to educate children about birth that they'd achieved in ten years of sending out leaflets". Wenner was unpopular with viewers, so left along with Heath on 23 June 1980.
Sarah Greene and Peter Duncan both joined in 1980, and a new producer, Lewis Bronze, joined in 1982. The 1980s saw the Blue Peter studio become more colourful and bright, with the presenters gradually wearing more fashionable outfits, in contrast to the more formal appearance of previous decades. Several videos of Blue Peter were released from 1982, the first being Blue Peter Makes, and an omnibus comprising of the two weekly editions of the show appeared in 1986 on Sunday mornings. On 27 June 1988, Baxter took part in her final show, after nearly 26 years involvement, and Bronze took her place as editor. Around this time, Blue Peter became distinctively environmentally aware and introduced a green badge in November 1988 for achievements related to the environment.
In the 1990s, a new version of the theme tune was written, and due to falling ratings, BBC1 controller Alan Yentob suggested airing a third edition of Blue Peter each week. This meant that the third show was pre-recorded; Joe Godwin, the director, suggested that the Friday show should be a lighter version of Blue Peter, which would concentrate on music, celebrities and games. A fourth presenter, Katy Hill, was introduced in 1995, but unlike earlier decades, there was little stability in the lineup, with resignations and new additions made almost every year of the decade. The 1990s also saw many more live broadcasts on location, with many shows shot entirely away from the studio. Blue Peter was also one of the first television shows to launch a website. There were also two changes of editors: Oliver Macfarlane replaced Bronze in the mid-1990s, and moved on in 1999 soon after Blue Peter celebrated its 40th anniversary. It was at this time Richard Bacon was sacked following reports in News of the World that he had taken cocaine. Steve Hocking was then appointed as editor in what was believed to be a difficult period for the show.
However, the 2000s started off successfully, when two time capsules that had been buried on Blue Peter were opened up. The former presenters were invited back to assist, and the rest of the programme looked at life in the 1970s when the first capsule was buried. With Hill's departure and replacement by Liz Barker in 2000, the new team of Konnie Huq, Simon Thomas, Matt Baker and herself made the programme strong and consistent for the next five years, which had been somewhat lacking in the 1990s. The Friday edition of the show, as in the previous decade, featured games and competitions, but additionally there was a drama series, The Quest, which featured cameos from many former presenters. Basil Brush also made several appearances on Fridays. It was at this time that the new controller of BBC One, Nigel Packard, asked for Blue Peter to be broadcast all year round. This was achieved by having two shows per week instead of three during the summer months, and using pre-recorded material. The early 2000s also introduced Christmas productions, which the presenters took part in. In 2003, Richard Marson became the new editor, and one of his first tasks was changing Blue Peter's output on the digital CBBC Channel, which for the first year of the channel's launch consisted of repeated editions, plus spin-off shows Blue Peter Unleashed and Blue Peter Flies the World. This new arrangement involved a complex schedule of live shows and pre-recorded material, being broadcast on BBC One and the CBBC Channel. Marson also introduced a new set, graphics and music, In February 2008 the BBC One programme was moved from 5:00 pm to 4:35 pm to accommodate The Weakest Link, and as a result of the move, Blue Peter's ratings dropped to as low as 100,000 viewers in the age 6–12 bracket but are now steadily improving.
Over 4000 shows have been produced since 1958, and almost every episode from 1964 onwards still exists in the BBC archives. This is extremely unusual for programmes of that era, and is a 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.
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. Contrary to popular belief, the episode was not live, but recorded to allow the presenters to catch a flight to Ceylon for a filming trip. 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.
Writing in the BBC's in-house magazine, Ariel, in 2009, BBC Children's Controller Richard Deverell announced plans to re-invent the show to be more like the BBC's motoring programme Top Gear. Deverell hopes that by adding "danger and excitement", Blue Peter will achieve the same "playground buzz" among children as Top Gear.
Blue Peter first aired once a week on Mondays, for a duration of 15 minutes. From 28 September 1964 until 1995 it was shown twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, extending its duration to 25 minutes. Between 1995 and 2000, it was broadcast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on BBC One, and from 2000, it was aired at 17:00, due to Newsround moving to a later slot. In 2002, repeats of Blue Peter were shown on the newly-launched CBBC Channel along with spin-off shows Blue Peter Unleashed and Blue Peter Flies the World, and from 2003 a new arrangement involved new material being shown daily, on both BBC One and the CBBC channel. From 2006 the show's output began to be reduced, first by dropping the Friday edition, then by running the programme from Monday to Wednesday then Tuesday to Thursday. In May 2007, it was announced another day would be dropped, leaving Tuesday and Wednesday the only days on which Blue Peter was broadcast on BBC One, although repeats and spin-offs continued to be broadcast on the CBBC channel. 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. The schedule was changed again in February 2008 when Blue Peter was moved to the 4:35 pm slot on BBC One, due to The Weakest Link moving from BBC Two replacing Neighbours which was bought by Five. However, this most recent timing change has led to a decrease in viewing figures, with fewer than 100,000 viewers, down from around 335,000 in 2003. The BBC Trust recommended the BBC to produce plans, detailing how they intend to increase viewership, by the summer of 2009.
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 current set is more realistic than in previous years and is a living space where large scale productions can still be used. 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 — a phrase credited to Christopher Trace. Trace also used the line "And now for something completely different", which was later taken up by Monty Python. Time is also often given over to reading letters and showing pictures sent in by viewers.
The signature tune has always been a hornpipe, originally using variations of Barnacle Bill. The original opening titles showed a Blue Peter flag being lowered on a ship. In 1979 it was updated by Mike Oldfield, and again in the 1990s. From the 2008 series onwards it became a rendition of the similar Sailors Hornpipe. However, from 14 October 2008, the tune has become a blend of both tunes. 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.
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 Disc Drive Appeal was, controversially, handled in a different editorial style, and it was not featured in each programme since its launch as in previous years. Also the totaliser, before part of the studio set, was relegated to an on-screen animation/graphic.
The 2008 appeal was called Mission Nutrition, an attempt to provide children in the UK, Bangladesh and South Africa with better food. As part of this appeal, the Blue Peter presenters held the world's biggest bring and buy sale on 18 February 2009, which was attended by several celebrities as well as regular people. Since the 2008 appeal there has been a return to regular features on the Appeal's progress in each edition, and the reistatement of a physical studio set Totaliser.
The 2009 Appeal has been revealed as "Send a Smile Appeal" which is symbolic as being the first Appeal in the history of the programme to blend a collecting theme with the Blue Peter "make" methodology. Children are encouraged to collect unwanted T-shirts to be donated to Operation Smile, a charity providing free reconstructive surgery to children in the developing world, where they will be used as surgical gowns for their operations. Appeal contributors are encouraged to customise their gowns in a variety of creative ways, as well as following instructions given on the programme for how to include eyelets and ties to the backs of the gowns.
Overall since the first appeal started Blue Peter has raised over £100 Million by appeals alone.
The latest pet to join the show is 9-month-old Barney, a red setter-dachshund, who has make his TV debut on Tuesday 22 September 2009.
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: three dogs, a Golden Retriever called Lucy, a Blue Merle Border Collie called Mabel and a red setter-dachshund called Barney; two cats, one called Socks and one called Cookie; and one tortoise called Shelley.
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.
Percy Thrower set about designing a working crop garden with different areas for different types of plants, for Blue Peter. The finished garden was unveiled on the show on 21 March 1974, with Percy Thrower accompanied by the regular presenters, who at the time were Peter Purves, John Noakes and Lesley Judd.
The layout of the garden remained the same for a number of years, until 1979 when Percy Thrower redesigned it to look like an Italian sunken garden, complete with fish pond and small benches for the presenters to sit on while introducing items. The garden was partly vandalised shortly before completion, causing a lot of distress to Percy, the presenters and the viewers but although the damage could be repaired, worse was to come.
On 21 November 1983, the garden was again 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, Les Ferdinand and Linford Christie when they were teenagers. All three men have denied direct involvement in the actual vandalism, although Ferdinand did later appear to confess to "helping a few people over the wall.". Christie has subsequently been quoted as saying he "neither denys nor confirms" the rumour . Later still, however, Ferdinand claimed that his 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 will be moving its entire CBBC operations to mediacity:uk at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester. This puts into doubt the future of the Blue Peter garden. There are, however, plans to make the entire BBC Television Centre a Grade II listed building.
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.
Usually shows the viewers how to make their own Mother's Day card. Sometimes, a similar show will be done around Father's Day.
Usually shows the presenters telling viewers about the firework code and tips for a safe bonfire and fireworks night.
The traditional Christmas programme opened 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. For the 2008 series, some of the items from the traditional format returned with a make, presents for the presenters and pets and a brief look at the programmes natvity crib. Some years there will be a Christmas play, either spoofing hit movies like Grease or a Pantomime and during the millennium special Blue Peter cast both past and present stared in a time travel play.
Many 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 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 performers such as Jean Marsh.
In the early 1960s the "Advent Crown" was introduced. It consists of four 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.
In 2007 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. For 2008 the traditional "Advent Crown" was resurrected and given a make-over, and the candles were lit on each of the last four programmes before Christmas, however it was called an "Advent decoration" on screen. In 2009 the "Advent Crown" was dropped.
Children (and 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. This suspension was lifted in June 2006, when a new "Blue Peter Badge Card" was introduced to combat the problem, which is issued to each badge winner to prove that they are the rightful owners.
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.
In addition to the standard "blue" badge, several variations of the badge exist, for various achievements, including:
The Blue Peter opening theme called "Barnacle Bill" from 1958 to 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 around 1979, 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 to June 2008 the closing theme was slightly extended and rearranged, once again by Dave Cooke.
For the start of the September 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". On 14 October (the same week as the 50th anniversary) the opening arrangement of the tune was reworked to include elements of "Barnacle Bill" once again. The closing theme for 2008 is again bespoke and maintains elements unique to the closing arrangement of "Barnacle Bill".
1958–1989: The earliest episodes featured stock footage of a sailing ship under the opening credits.
By the late 1960s, Blue Peter's opening sequence featured extracts of that edition's filmed inserts or an event in the studio where speech was absent accompanied by the signature tune and superimposed 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.
2008–2009: The current Blue Peter titles see a return to the original format without 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. 2008 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.
2009–present: In the same style to the 2008 titles however the presenters are now featured in the titles with the coming up bit before the titles begin.
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.
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: There are no closing crew credits; instead, the programme ends with a five second caption of Blue Peter and the CBBC logo.
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".
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 1986 and 1990, and between 1992 and 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.
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 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 21/3/74-23/11/87 and was presented with a Gold Blue Peter badge shortly before his death in 1988. He was followed from 1988–91 by Chris Crowder and from 1991–00 by Clare Bradley. The current incumbent, Chris Collins took over in 2004.
Another contributor, though rarely seen on screen, was Margaret Parnell, who created almost all of the show's "makes" from 1963 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.
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 August 2007 while the programme was off air for its annual Summer Expedition, long-time presenter Konnie Huq was 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.
On 24 November 1988, Frank Ruse, a left-wing Labour councillor for Liverpool City Council, accompanied Liverpool's Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra to London for an appearance on Blue Peter. He was given a Blue Peter badge and wore it proudly to his council meetings. However, he received a BBC headed letter requesting for the return of the badge. The letter (which was later discovered to be a forgery) stated that Blue Peter had been approached by Neil Kinnock's office (Labour leader at the time) who were alarmed that a councillor with hard-left views had been given a Blue Peter badge. On receiving the Blue Peter badge from Frank Ruse, the BBC wrote back to him stating that the letter must be a hoax and an angry Mr Ruse started a local and national enquiry to find out who sent the hoax letter.
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 – the reported story was that 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. As a result of bad media coverage 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.
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:
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 were 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.