Blue Peter 60
Blue Peter celebrates 60 years with a big birthday extravaganza
Those two words, Blue Peter, are so powerful that the doors just open up when Blue Peter tries to get access to anywhere because people know what it is, what it stands for, what message we are trying to convey and the stories we are trying to tell.Radzi Chinyanganya
Why is Blue Peter still popular today and what makes it special?
I think it’s one of the only shows in the entire world that if you speak to your mother, your grandmother or your daughter they will all know exactly what it is about. The show also has the original form of interaction where, rather than someone ‘liking’ something or looking at something on a screen, you get something physical to show for your endeavour. You can write in to Blue Peter and you can receive something physical back in the post in the form of a Blue Peter badge - which means you are part of the coolest club ever and also a club that dates back over a half a century.
How has Blue Peter changed over the past 60 years?
Everything has changed about Blue Peter and at the same time nothing has. The way that it’s filmed in terms of the technology, the cameras that are used, the way it’s broadcast, the fact that it’s now in colour, the access to information that we have now that we simply didn’t have back then, the fact the internet has changed the game in so many ways. But equally, the values of the show are exactly the same. The whole premise of Blue Peter is that you go on an adventure, you go on a voyage, that is the point of the Blue Peter ship, and that is exactly what we try to do with every single show - the audience sees us go on that adventure and hopefully it’s the kind of thing that they won’t see anywhere else.
Why did you want to become a Blue Peter presenter?
I did economics at university and I learnt very quickly that I did not want to spend the rest of my life doing something I didn’t enjoy and I didn’t enjoy economics. If you had spoken to the 10-year-old Radzi and asked him what he wanted to do he would have said ‘be a Blue Peter presenter’. So I immediately thought of that Radzi and began a three year journey of working for free to get my break in TV which was on a show called Wild on CBBC. It was 10 weeks of live TV and at the end Ewan Vinnicombe, the current Editor of Blue Peter asked if I would like to be presenter number 37. And I cried!
Your best moment as a Blue Peter presenter?
It was actually getting the job because of what it means, the legacy and the history. Those two words, Blue Peter, are so powerful that the doors just open up when Blue Peter tries to get access to anywhere because people know what it is, what it stands for, what message we are trying to convey and the stories we are trying to tell.
Once I had the job, my best moment was probably doing a film called The Walk That Changed The World where I got to walk in the footstep of my hero, Martin Luther King. He did a walk from Selma to Montgomery and I literally and figuratively walked that walk, I walked in his footsteps and told a story that I had never seen told on kids TV before. I got to look into the eyes of the people that were a part of history and it was a genuinely humbling, unforgettable experience.
Your worst moment as a Blue Peter presenter?
I went skydiving with the RAF Falcons. We had five days with them and we knew we had to skydive for all of those days to realistically have a chance of doing the ‘pay off’ happening at the end of the fifth day, which was to do a display with them. Day one and two were cancelled due to bad weather but on the third day I finally got to go in the plane. The doors opened for me to do my first ever skydive and they looked out at what they call the D zone, the drop zone. If there is any cloud cover between the plane and the D zone they call it off and they did. They said we had to go back down. At that point having geared yourself up, having got yourself ready for it, having had the disappointment of the previous two days and to finally be able to do the thing I wanted and then having that taken away from you was absolutely devastating. However, roll on 12 hours later and I was up in the plane and it was the best experience ever.
What makes being a Blue Peter presenter the best job in the world?
With most jobs you arrive into a place at 9am in the morning and leave at 5pm and you generally know what you are doing to be doing every day. The thing about Blue Peter is that you don’t know what you are going to be doing every day. Each day can provide any challenge. It’s not for everyone because some people like to know what they are going to be doing, they like routine but being a Blue Peter presenter does not give you that at all. What it does give you is just the most amazing, best stories to tell, you get to meet people who aren’t necessarily famous or rich but who have the most wonderful stories, and it allows you to live your best life.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to be a good role model to children?
Actually no I don’t because for me I always just try to be the best ‘me’ anyway. When I met CBBC presenter Mark Speight in 1997 he gave me time and I will always give anyone time and for me that is what is important, it is about making people feel special when I see them, making sure that they know they are important. Hopefully in those seconds together we will get a high five, a photo, autograph or whatever it is, but the point being I want to make them feel that they matter because they watch the show and because they watch the show they know me and as a result we are having a dialogue and that is what is important.
What do you love/dislike most about Lindsey?
I dislike how long Lindsey spends in makeup, anything from 11-12 hours every morning [not exactly true]. I like the fact we are like brother and sister so I spend a lot of time winding her up.
Is there anything/any challenge you would refuse to do?
I am not a massive fan of rats or sharks but outside of that I am up for most stuff because you only live once and if it is something dangerous I will tell my mum about it afterwards.
If you could choose any challenge to do what would it be?
I’ve climbed the world’s tallest man made climbing wall, I have jumped out of a plane at 13,000ft with the RAF Falcons which is high! I would like to go really deep, to do something under water, maybe something that makes me hold my breath to challenge my asthma or maybe something where you get to go to the Mariana Trench which is the deepest point in the Pacific Ocean.
If you could choose any Blue Peter pet what would it be?
I don’t like seeing animals in captivity but if it was about trying to help them I would like a sanctuary of chimpanzees so we get to help them - but also play with them - every day.
Were you a Blue Peter fan as a child and if so who was your favourite presenter and why?
Yes! Simon Thomas was my favourite. He was into sport, he was into action and he was really honest when it didn’t go right for him. I also got onto Blue Peter on my third time of trying and Simon got his Blue Peter opportunity on his third time of asking too, so I always felt we had that as a connection.
What is the future of Blue Peter?
Blue Peter is as relevant as the audience watching and the people on the screen telling the stories. I don’t know what stories they will be telling and I don’t know what they will be doing but I do know the audience will be at its heart and I know that the audience will love that Blue Peter, whatever year they are watching it, as much as they do now.
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