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18 June 2014
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Classic TV: Blue PeterClassic TV: Blue Peter

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Here's one I made earlier
This was the era when sticky-backed plastic, washing-up liquid bottles and pipe cleaners really came into their own.

The much-lampooned phrase, "Here's one I made earlier" was born out of necessity. Peter Purves explains: "We had to move time, because it was in real time. "Here's one I made earlier" saved the twenty minutes it took to cook something. How else do you do it? It was a perfectly reasonable thing."

On Cue
Peter Purves explodes the myth that the job was easy: "Well, let me tell you that in all the time I was presenting Blue Peter we never used Autocue at all! We had to learn the script and deliver it as accurately as if it was a play. And we had to learn it overnight - my script for the Thursday programme arrived at my house at about 9pm on the Wednesday. Not easy!"

The Blue Peter Appeals
1967 - postage stamps for homes for the homeless
1968 - clothes for a hospital truck for Nigeria and Biafra
1969 - old model cars and brass for an old peoples' bus
1970 - spoons and forks for three caravans for inner-city children
1971 - socks and pillowcases for a boys' dormitory in Kenya
1972 - treasure/scrap metal for an old people's centre

The Blue Peter Expeditions
1967 - Jamaica and New York
1968 - Morocco, 1969 - Ceylon
1970 - Mexico
1971 - Iceland, Norway and Denmark

The Blue Peter Royal Safari
In 1971 Blue Peter was asked if they would like to make a film with H.R.H. The Princess Royal, the Princess Anne. The Princess had recently become President of the Save the Children Fund and had agreed to appear in a film about the Fund's work in Kenya. Val was dispatched to accompany her.

The Blue Peter Baby
It was decided that Blue Peter should feature a baby on the show, to demonstrate to viewers without a brother or a sister just how babies grew and developed and how they should be looked after. On 30th September 1968, at just fourteen weeks old, Daniel made his debut. Up until June 1970 Daniel made regular appearances. Peter Purves was none too pleased about being given the job of being Daniel's on-screen father-figure.

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Lulu the Elephant
"This is one of those pieces of television that everyone remembers - a real classic," explains Peter. "It all happened when Lulu, the baby elephant from Chessington Zoo, came on the show and caused chaos. Lulu did the lot! She drank and she peed, poohed and generally misbehaved - dragging her poor gamekeeper through the mess. Val gamely struggled to keep us all on the script, but John and I could not stop laughing. It was really Biddy Baxter's fault. She asked the keeper to do without the stick he used to keep Lulu under control. Without it Lulu did exactly what she wanted. Great fun - and you couldn't have written it."

The 532 Blue Peter
The Class A-2 Pacific Locomotive was one of eight trains that went into service in 1948. All were named after racehorses (Blue Peter won the Derby in 1939). Taken out of service in 1966, she was in a very sorry state when Geoffrey Drury and Brian Hollingsworth discovered her. But on 22nd November 1970 the newly-restored train was re-named in a ceremony held at Doncaster by John Val (in a purple hat) and Peter. Astoundingly, 60,000 people turned up, and the team gamely signed autographs from the safety of a railway carriage.

In April 1998 the 532 travelled from Waverley to London's Kings Cross - a journey that hadn't been made by a steam train for thirty years. On board were Stuart Miles, Katy Hill and Richard Bacon. They arrived to be greeted by John and Val.

The Blue Peter Tree and Boxes for the Year 2000
On Monday 7th June 1971 a six foot silver birch was planted outside Television Centre. By the tree was planted a box for the presenters to dig up in the year 2000. Inside the box was:

  • A copy of the 1971 Blue Peter Book
  • A set of eight Blue Peter mini books
  • Photos of John, Val and Peter
  • Photos of the pets Petra, Jason and Patch
  • A piece of film from that day's programme
  • A spool of tape featuring the theme tune, the team saying hello and Petra barking and Jason meowing
  • A set of the new decimal coins
  • A letter saying what the programme was and who the presenters were
  • That day's running order.

In January 2000, after hundreds of letters from viewers to remind them, Val, John and Peter were reunited to dig up the boxes. Luckily, the contents remained relatively intact.

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
In 1968 ITV copied the Blue Peter format wholesale and produced Magpie, a trendier, sexier version. Magpie's most famous team was the permed Mick Robertson, sexy Jenny Hanley, and the hyperactive Tommy Boyd. During the show's run from 1968 until 1980 a BP vs Magpie rivalry existed, at least in the eyes of the media, with kids watching either one or the other, even though they were broadcast on different days.

For the fortieth anniversary in 1998, John, Val and Peter were reunited to present a whole evening of programmes celebrating the show, filmed on a replica of the set from their era.

They enjoyed the experience so much that the trio approached the BBC to make a Blue Peter for the middle-aged. "When we did it first time round, we helped give a lot of bored children ideas of what to do," said John Noakes. "Now... I see a lot of middle-aged people retiring early who never did anything but work and really don't know how to fill the time." Nothing seems to have come of the project, which is a shame.

Blue Peter video clips
Video Time to light the advent crown 
Video Lulu the elephant 
Video Val takes to the wheel 
Video The team steam ahead 
Video One of the makes 
Video Happy Birthday Petra 
Video Lion taming 
Video Peter gets marching 
Video Helping the poor 
Video Val in a bonnet 
Video Christmas for Shep 
Video Val on the catwalk 
Video River deep, mountain high 
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