Blue Peter is the world's longest-running children's television show, having first aired in 1958. It is shown on CBBC, both in its BBC One programming block and on the CBBC Channel. During its history there have been many presenters, often consisting of two women and two men at a time. This allows the programme to relate to both sex. The show uses a studio for the main format of the presenting; however, there is also a garden, often referred to as The Blue Peter Garden, that is used during the summer months or used when they are showing any outside activities. The current presenters as of 2020 are Richie Driss, Lindsey Russell and Mwaksy Mudenda.
Blue Peter's content is 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. Between the 1960s and 2011 the programme was made at BBC Television Centre, and often came from Studio 1, the fourth-largest TV studio in Britain and one of 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 was broadcast from a small fixed set in Studio 2. However, from 2009, the series began to use the larger studios once more; also more programmes were broadcast in their entirety from the Blue Peter Garden. 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. He 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.
Over 4,000 editions 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 become embedded in British popular culture, especially moments when things have gone wrong, such as the much-repeated clip of Lulu the elephant (from a 1969 edition) who urinated and defecated on the studio floor, appeared to tread on the foot of presenter John Noakes and then proceeded to attempt an exit, dragging her keeper along behind her. Other well-remembered and much-repeated items from this era include the Girl Guides' campfire that got out of hand on the 1970 Christmas edition, John Noakes's 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'.
Main Article: Blue Peter Presenters
With Blue Peter being such a long running and successful show the series has seen a great number of presenters. Usually consisting of 2 men and 2 women at a time. Christopher Trace and Leila Williams were the first presenters of Blue Peter in October 1958, and since then, there have been 35 subsequent presenters. The current presenting team comprises Barney Harwood, Radzi Chinyanganya (who replaced Helen Skelton in October 2013) and Lindsey Russell. Lindsey Russell is the first presenter to be chosen by viewers following a contest to find a new presenter, entitled 'Blue Peter! You Decide' and Helen Skelton left Blue Peter in September 2013, after 5 and a half years on the show. Barney the red-setter dachshund went with her. Prior to this, in the first two years of the programme's new home at Salford, guest presenters occasionally covered for Helen and Barney in the studio or in some film reports.
Other people who have played roles on the show include the zoologist George Cansdale, who was the programme's first on-screen veterinarian, and Percy Thrower who was the show's gardening expert from 21 March 1974 to 23 November 1987 and was presented with a Gold Blue Peter badge shortly before he died in 1988. He was followed from 1988–91 by Chris Crowder and from 1991–2000 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 was then filled by Gillian Shearing, though Parnell's name still appeared in the credits from time to time when a classic "make" was re-used.
Director/producer Alex Leger who joined the show in 1975 as a production assistant finally retired in 2011, making him Blue Peter's longest serving staff member ever. Presenter Anthea Turner said of Leger: "Alex was the director we feared and loved in the same sentence; he would push you to your limits of endurance and in my case made me face my fear of water by taking me to Crystal Palace to shoot a film about high board diving. Never have my knees knocked so much." Writing on The Huffington Post in November 2012, Leger admitted the "piles of clippings, strange souvenirs from overseas trips, half-finished 'makes' from the show and half-dead pot plants disguised the fact something ground-breaking was happening in the cramped Blue Peter offices". Leger published his book, Blue Peter: Behind the Badge, on 5 November 2012, in collaboration with many of his former colleagues.
Main article: Blue Peter pets
The Blue Peter pets are the animals who regularly appear on the BBC children's television series Blue Peter. For 27 years, when not on TV, these pets were often looked after by Blue Peter's long-standing pet keeper Edith Menezes, who died in 1994. The first pet was a dog named Petra in 1962 and since then there have been several dogs, cats, tortoises, parrots and horses Joe And Simon. The current animals on the show are cats named Socks and Cookie; Shelley the tortoise; Magic the trainee guide dog puppy; and the rarely seen Blue Peter Riding for the Disabled horse, Jet. Rags was another pony, named by viewers, who was purchased by the proceeds of a Christmas appeal in the late 1970s as a Riding for the Disabled horse. The Blue Peter parrot—Joey, and one successor, Barney—featured in the 1960s, but when Barney, a Blue-fronted Amazon, died, he was not replaced. In a 1986 documentary shown on BBC2 as part of the Did You See...? series, former presenter Peter Purves recalled that Biddy Baxter, the show's editor, had called him in floods of tears the day the first parrot Joey had died. He went on to muse in the same interview that had he himself died, Baxter would have been far less upset. The original idea behind featuring the programme's pets was to teach viewers lucky enough to own animals how to look after them, and for the creatures to act as surrogate pets for those that did not own any. For example, dog training items, tortoise hibernation, and cat care are often featured on the programme; however, the keeping of rabbits and mice was deemed not suitable as these often died. In addition, dogs that lived with the presenters often accompanied them on filming assignments.