Lizzy DeningChildren, Charity, TV

60 years of Blue Peter presenters and more!

Lizzy DeningChildren, Charity, TV
60 years of Blue Peter presenters and more!
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Blue Peter was one of our favourite childhood shows, seeing as it's turning 60 this year, we're taking a look back at all of the Blue Peter presenters, iconic moments and of course, the famous pets, revealing some interesting facts you may not have known about the show and its presenters! 

Blue Peter’s 60th Big Birthday TV show

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On Tuesday 16th of October 2018, an hour-long live special is being broadcast on CBBC to celebrate Blue Peter’s 60th anniversary. During the Big Birthday episode, the current presenter, Radzi Chinyanganya and his co-host Lindsey Russell will undertake special challenges, which include watching the crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth spell out “Blue Peter” at sea, and an attempted solo hot air balloon flight within the Arctic Circle. The episode will also include past presenters, such as Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, taking part in a crafting extravaganza, and pop singer Ed Sheeran receiving his gold Blue Peter badge.  

Other celebrations include a limited-edition Diamond badge that can only be awarded to viewers who complete special tasks, a Big Birthday Balloon revealed on the Piazza at Media City, and a Blue Peter Walk of Fame to commemorate those who have received a Gold badge. In addition, the CCBC website ran a competition to suggest contents for the Blue Peter Diamond Time Capsule, which will be sealed in the National Archives – the first time a capsule will be stored instead of buried.

First broadcast in 1958, since its inception Blue Peter has included 37 presenters, 25 pets, awarded over one million badges, and is the longest running children’s TV show in the world. Henry Holland, who designed the Diamond badge, described Blue Peter as “a British Institution”. The show is still going strong and received 106,000 letters from viewers in 2017.

  • The one-off special will be broadcast Tuesday 16th of October 2018 on CBBC

Blue Peter gets a new badge

To celebrate its 60th anniversary and the 5,000th episode of the show, a new Blue Peter badge has been designed. The diamond badge was designed by British fashion designer, Henry Holland and was revealed on CBBC this week during their 5,000th episode. 

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It's the first time in Blue Peter history that the iconic shape of the badge has been changed but the special limited edition diamond badge will only be available this year to celebrate the 60th anniversary. 

Who has presented Blue Peter over the years? 

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Blue Peter has become an iconic British children’s programme, entertaining generations since it’s first episode in 1958. Since then, there have been almost 40 presenters of the show and a whole load of adventures, crafts and of course, the famous Blue Peter pets. Now, we take a look at the lives of the Blue Peter presenters through time as the show changed.

Christopher Trace 1958-1967

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The English actor and TV presenter from surrey was one of the first ever Blue Peter presenters and spent 9 years presenting the show from the age of 25. He resigned in 1967 as John Noakes became an accepted member of the Blue Peter team. In 1978, he appeared on the Blue Peter 20th anniversary show where he out of the blue announced he wanted to give an outstanding endeavour award which has now become an annual Blue peter event. In 1992, he died from throat cancer aged 59.

Leila Williams 1958-1962

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In 1957, she won the Miss Great Britain title and the following year, she became one of the first Blue Peter presenters alongside Christopher Trace. In 1962, the new producer, whom she didn’t get along with, made her redundant from Blue Peter. She did however return for the Blue Peter 40th anniversary show in 1998. Following her time on the show, she took up many jobs including an Assistant Manager at Dorothy Perkins before retiring to Spain with her husband. She will be turning 81 this year.

Anita West 1962

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Presenting in the place of Leila Williams, Anita West was the shortest serving presenter of Blue Peter, featuring in only 16 episodes. She left the show in 1962 before going through a divorce from her musician husband at the time, Ray Ellington.

Valerie Singleton 1962-1972

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Anita West was later replaced by Valerie Singleton who remained there until 1972. During her time on Blue Peter, she went on many excursions and even accompanied Princess Anne on her first solo trip overseas on a Kenyan Royal Safari in 1971. Following her time on Blue Peter, she went on to present various other TV and radio shows and in 1994, she was awarded an OBE. She returned to Blue Peter for the 50th anniversary in 2008 and is currently 80 years old.

John Noakes 1965-1978

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He was introduced as a third presenter in 1965. The team of him, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves were very popular and lasted five years. He was the longest serving Blue Peter presenter in history. Born in West Riding of Yorkshire, he was in the RAF before deciding to train as an actor which led to going on to present Blue Peter. During his time on Blue Peter, he had a particularly close relationship with the Blue Peter dog, Shep as well as taking part in many famous stunts including his climb of Nelson’s column. Following his time on Blue Peter, he wrote a children’s book and featured in other children’s programmes. He reunited with his Blue Peter team in 1998 for a programme celebrating 40 years of Blue Peter. As he grew older, he developed Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away on 28th May 2017, aged 83.

Peter Purves 1967-1978

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Born in Lancashire, he started acting after leaving school. In 1967, he took on the role as Steven Taylor, the doctor’s assistant in Doctor Who and began his presenting role on Blue Peter in 1967 replacing Christopher Trace. He particularly had a close relationship with the Blue Peter dog, Petra who later became his pet. After leaving Blue Peter, he featured in many TV programmes and theatre shows and is currently age 78.

Lesley Judd 1972-1979

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Born in 1946 in London, she was a part of The Young Generation Dance Troupe and featured on many TV shows as a dancer before joining the presenting team of Blue Peter. Her second husband’s battle with MS caused her to leave Blue Peter in 1979. After she left the show, she presented her own chat show, In The Limelight With Lesley. She has also featured on radio shows and now lives in France.  

Simon Groom 1978-1986

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Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Simon joined Blue Peter in 1979. Before this he had briefly worked as an English teacher and a DJ. Famous for his sense of humour and innuendos, he left the show in 1986 and went on to present radio, produce his own albums and TV documentaries. He and his wife Gilly now run a sheep farm in Derbyshire.

Tina Heath 1979-1980

Joined in 1979 to replace Lesley Judd. Famously, she was the first Blue Peter presenter to become pregnant and television history was made when she allowed her ultra-scan to be filmed for the show which was a relatively new procedure and allowed viewers to see how a baby developed in the womb. Her daughter, Jemma, returned with her mother in the 1993 35th birthday special of the show. She is now 65.

Christopher Wenner 1978-1980

Born in Lancashire, he studied at the University of Oxford where he was in the dramatic society. Joining Blue Peter in 1978, he left in 1980 as he was unpopular amongst viewers. After a short acting stint, he decided to focus on Journalism, particularly, international affairs and won a number of awards for his work. He is currently aged 63.

Sarah Greene 1980-1983

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She began her career as a child actress before attending the University of Hull and graduating with a Drama degree. She then began pursuing acting roles. In 1980, she became a presenter of Blue Peter at just 22. Following her time on Blue Peter, she went on to present a number of programmes as well as acting in various shows including Doctor Who, Casualty, Brookside and French & Saunders. Now, she occasionally sits in for This Morning presenters. She is currently 59 and her and her late husband, Mike Smith, who died in 2014, had no children together.

Peter Duncan 1980-1984 and 1985-1986

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Born in Middlesbrough, after training at the Italia Conti theatre school, he began his career as a theatre actor. He then began acting in TV roles. In 1980, he joined Blue Peter until 1984. He then returned as a presenter from 1985-86.  After his time on Blue Peter, he returned to the stage until 1999 when he filmed and produced his own travel documentary series with his wife Annie and their four children. He is currently 63 years old.

Janet Ellis 1983-1987

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She was born in Kent and from a young age she had an interest in acting and studied at The Central School for Speech and Drama. Her first big role was becoming a regular presenter of Jigsaw. She joined Blue Peter in 1983. Her time on Blue Peter came to an end in 1987, she then went on to host radio shows, write books and appear in TV advertisements. She now writes fictional novels which have been very successful and also writes in newspapers. Her famous daughter, Sophie Ellis-Bextor was born in 1979 to her and her first husband, Robin Bextor. She later remarried and had two more children with John Leach.

Michael Sundin 1984-1985

Originally, he competed in trampolining tournaments before turning to show business in 1980, appearing in pantomimes, TV and theatre before replacing Peter Duncan on Blue Peter. In 1985, Blue Peter decided not to renew his contract leaving him very unhappy about the decision. In 1989, he died at just 28 of an AIDS related illness.

Mark Curry 1986-1989

Born in Stafford, he later grew up in West Riding, Yorkshire. His TV career began at the young age of seven in Yorkshire television’s Junior Showtime. He also appeared in many pantomimes and TV presenting roles before taking on the presenting role at Blue Peter. He was invited to replace Simon Groom without having to audition. During his time on the show, he spent three weeks in Malawi to raise money for a blindness charity there which was close to his heart as he is partially sighted. Following his time on the show, he featured in many radio and TV series and theatre roles. He is currently 56.

Caron Keating 1986-1990

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Daughter of Gloria Hunniford and Donald Keating, she joined the Blue Peter team in November 1986 and during her time there, she had a trip to Moscow during perestroika, swam with sharks, and interviewed serving prime minister, Margaret Thatcher in 1988. She left Blue Peter in 1990 where she co-hosted a radio show. Her TV career came to an end when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and after long battle with various treatments, she died at the age of 41 in 2004.

Yvette Fielding 1987-1992

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Her first ever TV role was in the children’s series, Seaview before she joined Blue Peter in 1987 when she was only 18. After Blue Peter, she co-hosted What’s Up Doc on a Saturday morning and since then has featured on many panel shows, hosting roles, and documentaries but now, she is perhaps most famous for her paranormal shows such as Most Haunted and the Ghosthunting With series. She continues to work on TV and even has her own tea rooms in Manchester.

Diane-Louise Jordan 1990-1996

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Born in 1960, she became the first black presenter of Blue Peter after being spotted by the producer of Blue Peter whilst she was presenting the children’s series Corners. She even turned down a role in Coronation Street to take the Blue Peter presenting role. Now, she presents Songs of Praise, is a confidence coach and used to present various radio shows.

Anthea Turner 1992-1994

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Born in Stoke-on-Trent, her first media job was as a runner for BBC Radio Stoke. Her first debut on television was on the BBC’s But First This which led to her presenting role on UP2U. from 1988 to 1991, she presented Top of the Pops and in 1992, began at Blue Peter. After this, Anthea went on to present various TV programmes including GMTV, the first ever National Lottery and Wish You Were Here and write many books. As well as this, she has released two work out DVD’s and has also appeared on The Jump, Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Big Brother.

Tim Vincent 1993-1997

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His time presenting on Blue Peter lasted until 1997 and in this time he completed the New York marathon and visited South Africa. After Blue Peter, he began in the drama Dangerfield and presented the Clothes Show and in 2000 was on Emmerdale. He then famously went on to present the Miss World contests. He now works mostly on American TV.

Stuart Miles 1994-1999

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He began his career presenting hospital radio and later joined a local TV station. His role as presenter on Saturday Disney led to his role on Blue Peter where he famously joined the RAF Falcons Display team. After leaving in 1999, he went on to present This Morning and Sky Vegas before appearing in his own live drag act. Now, he frequently presents radio.

Katy Hill 1995-2000

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Daughter of a vicar from Poole, Dorset, Katy had to carry out unpaid work experience at radio station BBC Essex before getting a job presenting with Nickelodeon. During this time, she sent the editor of Blue Peter many show reels which resulted in her winning an audition place and she later joined the show. She left in 2000 and went on to present various TV and radio shows but now has her own lifestyle and parenting blog online.

Romana D’Annunzio 1996-1998

She spent two years presenting Blue Peter before taking up acting roles in the theatre. She then went on to study at the University of Edinburgh where she graduated with an MA in English and Italian. She is now a teacher.

Richard Bacon 1996-1998

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His first job was at McDonalds before working as a reporter for BBC Radio Nottingham before his big break at Blue Peter where he presented the show for just 18 months before being sacked after he admitted he had taken drugs. Since then, he has had a fairly successful presenting career including The Big Breakfast, Top of The Pops, This Morning and various other chat shows. He also presented a number of radio shows including BBC Radio 5 Live, Capital FM and Xfm but he now lives in Los Angeles with his wife where he is working on US Television.

Konnie Huq 1997-2008

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She appeared on Blue Peter long before she was a presenter at the age of 14, singing with the National Youth Music Theatre where she sang a solo. She then went on to graduate from Cambridge University before her presenting debut on GMTV’s Children’s show, Eat Your Words. She is the longest serving female presenter of Blue Peter and her most memorable moments include the time she featured in a Bollywood film and broke a world record by pinning 17 Blue Peter badges onto her colleague, Andy Akinwolere’s shirt. Since her time on Blue Peter, she has presented and appeared on many TV and radio shows, including Xtra Factor, The One Show and Pointless celebrities. In 2010, she married comedian Charlie Brooker after they met on one of his shows. The pair have two children together. She currently presents radio podcasts alongside other celebrities.

Simon Thomas 1999-2005

He applied for Blue Peter three times before landing a presenting job there, replacing Richard bacon. Whilst on Blue Peter, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc. He left Blue Peter in 2005 and joined Sky Sports where he presented Sky Sports News, becoming the lead presenter of football coverage from 2010. In November 2017, his wife Gemma who he has a son with sadly passed away from acute myeloid leukemia.

Matt Baker 1999-2006

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Born in Durham, he grew up on his parents farm. As a child, he was Junior British gymnast and acrobat champion but sadly had to give this up at 14 when he was diagnosed with anaemia. After starring in a school production of Greese, it was suggested that he should try going to a drama school. Midway through his course at Queen Margaret University Edinburgh he found out Blue Peter were looking for a new presenter and after going for an interview, he got the job. He even brought his dog, Meg on the show with him until his departure in 2006. Following Blue Peter, he has had a successful career presenting on many shows including Countryfile and The One Show. He and his wife Nicola live in Buckinghamshire with their two children.

Liz Barker 2000-2006

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During her six years on Blue Peter, Liz went to some amazing places such as Vietnam, Brazil and Morroco, as well as interviewing David Beckham and presenting Sir Elton John with a Blue Peter badge. In 2004, she gave birth to her son and later became the first Blue Peter presenter to return to the job after giving birth. In 2006, she left the show to spend time with her family and now presents radio.

Zöe Salmon 2004-2008

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The ex-miss Northern Ireland is also a qualified solicitor, who became the 30th Blue Peter presenter when she replaced Liz Barker. She left the show in 2008 and has since appeared on various TV and radio shows as well as Dancing On Ice.

Gethin Jones 2005-2008

The Welsh TV presenter was a talented musician and rugby player at school, but during his early career, he joined the Welsh channel, S4C as a presenter of children’s programmes and in 2005 joined Blue Peter. During his time on Blue Peter, he flew with the Red Arrows, survived the Bolivian Jungle and was attacked by an alligator. After his time on Blue Peter, he took on many presenting roles on both TV and radio including The One Show, This Morning and BBC Radio 5 Live. Back in 2011, he was engaged to opera singer, Katherine Jenkins but sadly their relationship ended before they were married.

Andy Akinwolere 2006-2011

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Born in Nigeria, he moved to the UK when he was eight years old. He graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2004 with a degree in Media. During his time on the show, he passed his driving test, met the Queen and the Pope and broke a world record for swimming five miles in the ocean. He now presents Inside Out in the West Midlands.

Helen Skelton 2008-2013

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Born in Cumbria and brought up on a dairy farm, she began her career in PR and later focussed on journalism becoming a presenter on BBC radio Cumbria in 2005. She then became a presenter on the children’s news programme, Newsround before joining Blue Peter. She carried out many tough challenges whilst she was at Blue Peter biking to the South Pole and kayaking the amazon. Since her departure, she has presented various shows including Countryfile and the Olympics. She now lives in France with her husband, rugby player, Richie Myler and their two children.

Joel Defries 2008-2010

He began his media career at New Zealand radio station, Channel Z before returning back to the UK to present Blue Peter where on the show he learnt to fly a hand glider. After leaving the show, he presented other CBBC programmes and is currently 32.

Barney Harwood 2011-2017

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Barney has worked with the children’s channel CBBC since 2002, presenting many TV shows including Basil’s Swap Shop, Prank Patrol and Bamzooki. He was very popular on Blue Peter during his 6 and a half years on the show and was awarded the gold Blue Peter badge on his last ever show.   

Lindsey Russell 2013

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She landed her role on the show from a competition to find the next Blue Peter presenter that attracted over 20,000 applicants. Since her successful win, she has also appeared in various TV and film roles including Kung Foo Panda 3, Hacker Time and Danger Mouse.

Radzi Chinyanganya 2013

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A keen sportsman, he first featured on TV as a contestant in Gladiators in 2008 and after various presenting roles, he joined Blue Peter in 2013. Whilst he has worked on the show, he has also appeared on Songs of Praise, Celebrity Mastermind and Celebrity Eggheads.

 

Dancing for Children In Need

Six popular Blue Peter presenters from over the past 60 years of the show will discover the joy of the ballroom, in a special dance programme for BBC’s Children in Need.

Mark Curry, Diane-Louise Jordan, Anthea Turner, Tim Vincent, Konnie Huq and current presenter Radzi Chinyanganya will be paired with Strictly Come Dancing professionals as they compete to win the Pudsey Glitter Ball trophy.

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Blue Peter is set to celebrate its 60th birthday next year, and has kept generations of children (and their parents!) entertained with its mixture of adventure, education, silliness and, of course, the charming Blue Peter pets.

“Blue Peter, Strictly Come Dancing and BBC Children in Need are some of the most famous programmes in television history,” says former presenter Mark Curry. “I’m proud to be a part of all three of these legendary shows by taking part in our Strictly special. Here’s hoping we help to raise a record-breaking total on 17 November."

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“I'm a former Trustee for BBC Children in Need as well as a massive Strictly fan,” says Diane-Louise Jordan. “Blue Peter will always be my first love. So to have an opportunity to combine all three is thrilling! It's also terrifying because (as all who know and love me will testify) I can't dance… But as it's for charity I gladly accept the challenge!"

The special show will be presented by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, and will feature as part of the BBC Children in Need 2017 Appeal Night on BBC1 on Friday, November 17.