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Blue Peter
Blue Peter Logo 2013.png
The Blue Peter logo (2011–present)
Genre
Created by John Hunter Blair
Presented by Lindsey Russell (2013–)
Richie Driss (2019–)
Mwaka Mudenda (2020–)
Adam Beales (2020–)
(See full list)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 5,134 (as of 24 September 2020)
Production
Production location(s) dock10 studios (2011–current)
Running time 15 minutes (1958–1960s)
25 minutes (1960s–2008)
35 minutes (2005–2006; CBBC Channel Extension)
24 minutes (2008–2011)
28 minutes (2012–)
60 minutes (Birthday specials and documentaries)
Release
Original network BBC Television Service (1958–1960)
BBC TV (1960–1964)
BBC1 (1964–2012)
CBBC (1985–present)
CBBC HD (2013–)
Original release 16 October 1958 (1958-10-16) – present

Blue Peter is a British children's television programme that was first broadcast in 1958. The programme, which has had continuous seasons since it was first aired, is now the longest-running children's TV show in the world. It was broadcast mainly from BBC Television Centre in London until September 2011, when the programme moved North to dock10 studios at MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester. It is currently shown live on the CBBC television channel.

Created by John Hunter Blair, the programme was later developed by a BBC team led by Biddy Baxter. She became the programme editor in 1965, relinquishing the role in 1988. Throughout the show's history there have been many presenters. Currently, it is hosted by Lindsey Russell, Richie Driss, Mwaka Mudenda and Adam Beales.

The show used a nautical title and theme. Its content, which follows a magazine/entertainment format, features viewer and presenter challenges, competitions, celebrity interviews, popular culture and sections on making arts and crafts items from household items. The show has had a garden in both London and Salford, known as the Blue Peter Garden, which is used during the summer and for outdoor activities. The programme has featured a number of pets that became household names, such as dogs Petra, Shep, and Goldie, as well as other animals such as tortoises, cats, and parrots. The longevity of Blue Peter has established it as a significant part of British culture and British heritage.

Content

See also: List of Blue Peter episodes

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, 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, though Marguerite Patten is another possibility. 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.

Over 5,000 editions have been produced since 1958, and almost every episode from 1964 onwards still exists in the BBC archives. This is unusual for programmes of that era. Editor Biddy Baxter personally ensured that telerecordings and, from 1970, video recording were kept of each episode.

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 baby 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. Although it is often assumed to have been broadcast live, the edition featuring Lulu was one of the rare occasions when the programme was pre-recorded, as the presenters were en route to Ceylon for the summer expedition at the time of transmission. 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 the production of a facsimile door knocker for Durham Cathedral which was displayed alongside the original, with the words 'what a beautiful pair of knockers'.

Presenters and contributors

Christopher Trace and Leila Williams were the first presenters of Blue Peter in October 1958, and since then, there have been 37 subsequent presenters. Lindsey Russell, who joined the programme in 2013, currently hosts along with Richie Driss, who was announced as the 38th presenter and began in May 2019. The next addition was Mwaksy Mudenda who was revealed as the 39th presenter on 13 June 2019. The 40th presenter joined the team in September 2020, Adam Beales.

Other personnel 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 until 1991 by Chris Crowder and from 1991 until 2000 by Clare Bradley. From 2004 until 2013 by Chris Collins. From 2014 to present, The Skinny Jean Gardeners Lee & Dale Connelly and child gardener George Hassal the RHS Ambassador, who makes various appearances throughout the year.

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 and 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.

Pets

The Blue Peter pets are the animals who regularly appear on the programme. These include dogs, cats, parrots and tortoises. John Noakes was almost famous for his work with a dog called Shep. Among the most recent Blue Peter pets are two cats, one called Socks and one called Cookie; and one tortoise called Shelley. Dog Mabel retired on 30 March 2010 after 14 years on the show. Barney, a red setter-dachshund, made his TV debut on Tuesday 22 September 2009, and left four years later at the same time as his owner, presenter Helen Skelton. Lucy, a golden retriever, died aged 13 in late March 2011. In July 2013, Socks and Cookie made their final appearance in the studio in Salford, as (like Shelley the tortoise) they live in London, but they are still regarded as part of the programme team. Trained Guide Dog Iggy, who joined in 2014, still appears regularly. In 2019, new dog (Beagle-Basset Hound cross) Henry joined the team. They are attended by resident vet Dr Rory Cowlam.

Editors

  • Biddy Baxter (1965–1988)
  • Lewis Bronze (1988–1996)
  • Oliver Macfarlane (1996–1999)
  • Steve Hocking (1999–2003)
  • Richard Marson (2003–2007)
  • Tim Levell (2007–2013)
  • Ewan Vinnicombe (2013–2019)
  • Ellen Evans (2019–present)

Blue Peter Garden

Blue Peter garden
The former Blue Peter garden at BBC Television Centre in 2008.

Since the 1970s, presenters have maintained a Blue Peter Garden. The first garden, which was designed by British horticulturist Percy Thrower in 1974, was at the rear of Television Centre (51°30′38.25″N 0°13′39.61″W / 51.5106250°N 0.2276694°W / 51.5106250; -0.2276694 (Location of the original Blue Peter garden in London)). Its features included an Italian sunken garden with a pond that contained goldfish, a vegetable patch, greenhouse and viewing platform. The garden was also used to commemorate the show's pets and notable events. A bust of the dog Petra was placed in the garden after her death in 1977. The remains of George the Tortoise were interred there in 2004. It had a sculptures of the Blue Peter ship, and a plaque honouring Percy Thrower, who died in 1988. The garden was often made available to other programmes for outside broadcasts such as the links between children's programmes during the summer months and for BBC Breakfast's weather forecasts.

On Monday 21 November 1983, Janet Ellis reported that over the weekend the garden had been vandalised. A rumour circulated in the early 1990s that the vandalism had been carried out by a gang that included the future English international footballers Dennis Wise and Les Ferdinand when they were teenagers. Both men denied any involvement, although Ferdinand did later appear to confess to "helping a few people over the wall." However, Ferdinand later recanted saying he had been making a joke and was never there.

In September 2011, when the programme's production base moved to Dock10 in Salford, parts of the first garden including the sculptures and the sunken pond, were relocated to the piazza outside the new studio (53°28′20.26″N 2°17′48.95″W / 53.4722944°N 2.2969306°W / 53.4722944; -2.2969306 (Location of the current Blue Peter garden in Salford)). The 2000 Blue Peter time capsule that was buried in London was also brought to the new location. It was due to be opened in 2029 but was accidentally dug up in 2017. Blue Peter's second garden was officially opened on Thursday 23 February 2012 by The Princess Royal. Like its predecessor, it continues to be used throughout the year for outdoor broadcasts and live events.

Main badges

Blue peter badge
The design of the original "Blue" badge

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:

  • Silver badges, for sending in a letter or poem to the show when you already have the blue badge
  • Green badges, for contributions with a conservation, nature or environmental theme
  • Gold badges, the most rarely awarded, for exceptional achievement the second-highest awarded badge
  • Competition winners orange badges, for competition winners or runners up (replacing the previous circular "competition winner's badge")
  • Purple badges, awarded for completing a review of the show by completing the form on the Blue Peter website
  • 50th anniversary badge, awarded for sending a picture, poem or letter on the subject of the programme's 50th birthday
  • Factbyte factory badge, awarded to people who completed up to V.I.P. level 7 on the Factbyte factory online game on the official Blue Peter Website in 2009.
  • Sport badge, awarded to people from July – September 2013 (and again each summer since) for inspiring a friend or family member to try a new sport.
  • Diamond Badge, awarded to people from February 2018 to February 2019 who filled in their Diamond Badge application form. It is a special badge for Blue Peter's 60th year.

Annual events

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.

Shrove Tuesday

See also: Shrove Tuesday

Usually shows one of the presenters making a pancake. It is usually the newest presenter who makes the pancake and attempts to toss it perfectly.

Mothering Sunday

See also: Mothering Sunday

Usually shows the viewers how to make their own Mother's Day card or present.

Guy Fawkes Night

See also: Guy Fawkes Night

Usually tells the history of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot whilst the presenters tell viewers about the firework code and tips for a safe bonfire and fireworks night.

Christmas

See also: Christmas

The traditional Christmas programme usually opens with the signature tune being replaced with a brass band arrangement of the carol "Good King Wenceslas" juxtaposed with shots of viewers' home-made Christmas cards and followed by the lighting of the final candle on the Advent Crown. 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 various schools, assisted by members of the BBC Symphony Chorus, 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. In some years there was a Christmas play, either spoofing hit movies like Grease, popular songs or a pantomime. 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 (although the crib had been glimpsed in the previous edition), ending a format repeated annually since the 1960s. Apart from presents for the presenters and pets and a brief look at the programme's Nativity crib, the traditional elements remained largely absent in 2008 and 2009. From 2010 the closing carol was reinstated, with the Chalk Farm Salvation Army Band being replaced by the Salford band from 2011 onwards, as the programme had moved to MediaCity by then. In 2014, the full traditional content was revived, including the viewers' home-made cards accompanied by the Good King Wenceslas arrangement, the Advent Crown (although now using electric candles for safety reasons) and (after an absence in the previous two years) the sparkling ship logo appearing by the shot of the crib in the studio at the end of the closing carol. The Good King Wenceslas sequence was discontinued in 2016, but the Nativity crib, Advent Crown and sparkling ship logo endured, although the last two did not feature in 2020.

Appeals

BluePeterIII-LifeboatD-112
Blue Peter III an RNLI D class lifeboat, one of 25 lifeboats funded by the programme, now part of the Royal National Lifeboat Collection on display at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.

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. For example, in 1973–74, Blue Peter sponsored a "Stampede", asking people to donate postage stamps in support of Ethiopian famine relief. 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, previously a 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 reinstatement of a physical studio set Totaliser.

The 2009 Appeal was "Send a Smile Appeal" which was symbolic as being the first Appeal in the history of the programme to blend a collecting theme with the Blue Peter "make" methodology. Children were 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 were to be used as surgical gowns for their operations. Appeal contributors were 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. In subsequent years, the traditional Appeal has been dropped in favour of general fundraising and awareness-raising for BBC Children in Need.

As part of the 50th year a BBC estimate was that since the first appeal started Blue Peter has raised over £100 million (inflation adjusted figure to 2008 value) by appeals.

In 2018, it was announced that to celebrate Blue Peter's 60th year, it's 'Bring and Buy Sales' would be returning in aid of BBC Children in Need.

Book awards

Blue Peter promotes the Blue Peter Book Awards, a series of literary prizes for children's literature awarded annually, and inaugurated in 2000.

Time capsules

One of the most iconic parts of the show is its time capsules. Tradition began in 1971 when the first Blue Peter time capsule was buried, set to be opened in 2000 to show the next generations of viewers about life of the time, viewers selecting what goes in the time capsule. Since then more time capsules have been buried and opened.

1971–2000

The first time capsule was buried by Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves in front of the BBC Television Centre, where the presenters dug and buried the capsule. It contained objects from the time such as a copy of the 1970 Blue Peter annual, a set of decimal coins – which were introduced in 1971 – and photographs of the three presenters. The box had to be moved at one point in its long burial – the original site of the capsule was due to be developed in 1984 so the unopened box was unearthed and moved to another site in the Blue Peter garden.

On Friday 7 January 2000, presenters Katie, Konnie, Simon and Matt were joined with Valerie, John and Peter, who buried the capsule, to help unearth it. The team used a treasure map to locate the box and then dug it up and opened it. Water had leaked into the box and partially damaged some items, however most of the items were in surprisingly good condition. Editor Richard Marson decided that the opening of the capsule should not be broadcast live as it was unclear as to what would be discovered inside or even if the rusted container could even be opened. He was glad he made this decision when it became clear during the recording that the capsule had at some point been opened - probably at the time it was moved and reburied - and that the contents had been wrapped entirely differently from the original burial. By editing the video of the opening, he managed to avoid this becoming obvious to the viewers.

1984–2000

A second box was buried alongside the original by presenters Simon Groom, Peter Duncan and Janet Ellis, when the original was moved to the Blue Peter garden. This box contained hairs from Goldie the Blue Peter Labrador, a record of the programme's theme tune arranged by Mike Oldfield and video footage of the moving of Petra's statue. The later capsule was dug up by Groom and Ellis.

1998–2017/2050 (The Millennium Time Capsule)

The third was buried by Katy Hill and Richard Bacon in the floor beneath the Millennium Dome on 11 June 1998. As well as containing Blue Peter items including a badge and history of the programme, the capsule also contains a set of Teletubby dolls, an insulin pen and a France '98 football. The time capsule was set to be opened in 2050, however in 2017 it was accidentally dug up by builders and damaged.

It was then taken back to Salford and restored successfully. In 2018 it was announced that, as part of the shows 60th birthday, the contents would go on tour with various past presenters meeting it at several locations, after which it would be stored in the National Archives until 2050.

2000–2029

Following the unearthing of the first two time capsules in 2000 a fourth time capsule was to be buried in the Blue Peter garden. Alongside one of the recent Blue Peter books, two video tapes of the shows best bits from 1999, Photographs of the presenters and crew of the show in 2000 as well as items celebrating the shows 40th birthday in 1998. Matt Baker, Simon Thomas, Katy Hill & Konnie Huq also contributed by adding their own contribution. The capsule is due to be dug up in 2029.

2018–2038 (The Diamond Time Capsule)

In 2018, the team announced a new time capsule for their 60th anniversary. Viewers could suggest the contents of the time capsule through the website for the first time, and it is also to be stored in the National Archives, the first time it will not be buried. The capsule was stored on the 60th birthday programme by a competition winner, who had won the chance to have her design printed onto the capsule, as well as presenters Radzi Chinyanganya, Lindsey Russell, Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves, Janet Ellis and Katy Hill.

Books

In 1964, the first Blue Peter book was published by Lutterworth Press, by arrangement with the BBC. Due to the success of the book, the BBC produced an in house publication the following year. 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 1997, 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, 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.

In 2011 it was announced that, due to falling sales, the annuals would be scrapped. However, programme editor Tim Levell indicated that the book could return in the future.

Signature tune and motif

The signature tune has always been a hornpipe, originally using variations of Barnacle Bill by Herbert Ashworth-Hope (not to be confused with the bawdy American drinking song Barnacle Bill the Sailor.) The original version of the theme was a recording by the New Century Orchestra issued by the FDH Mood Music library. From the 2008 series, the theme became a rendition of the similar Sailor's Hornpipe. However, from 14 October 2008, the tune has been a blend of both tunes.

Opening theme

The following is a list of all the versions of the Blue Peter signature tune that have been used on the show:

  • Sidney Torch & The New Century Orchestra: October 1958 to January 1979
  • Mike Oldfield: January 1979 to June 1989 (see "Blue Peter" (Mike Oldfield instrumental))
  • Simon Brint: September 1989 to September 1992
  • Simon Brint: September 1992 to September 1994
  • The Yes/No People: September 1994 to August 1999
  • David Arnold and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: September 1999 to June 2004
  • Nial Brown: September 2004 to December 2006
  • Dave Cooke: January 2007 to June 2007
  • Dave Cooke & Blue Peter Music Makers September 2007 to June 2008
  • Dobs Vye: September 2008 – June 2011
  • Banks & Wag: September 2011 – present

The debut of a new version of the theme tune is sometimes accompanied with an introduction by the presenters at the time explaining the reasons behind the new rendition.

In 2006, a new version was arranged and recorded by Murray Gold as part of the Music Makers competition, with prize winners taking part in the final orchestral recording. Viewers were told that this recording 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 (who was the husband of ex-presenter Tina Heath) 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 ultimately aired bears little resemblance to either the original Murray Gold/Music Makers recording or any previous recording of the theme.

For the start of the September 2008 series, Barnacle Bill was dropped after nearly fifty years and replaced by an arrangement of the very similar Sailor's Hornpipe. On 14 October (the same week as the 50th anniversary) the opening tune was reworked to include elements of "Barnacle Bill" once again. The closing theme for 2008 is the same as opening signature tune.

In September 2011, the series returned to using "Barnacle Bill" though with the opening bars and drum roll omitted (along with the "Sailor's Hornpipe") and the traditional closing signature tune not used.

Closing theme

There is little or no record of the closing music of Blue Peter in its earliest days, but by the mid-1960s, the show was closing with an edit of Parts Two and Three of Drums and Fife, from a 1961 suite of six library cues by Wilfred Burns, performed by The Light Symphonia, conducted by Roberto Capelli (Conroy, BM 301-A). This recording remained in use until January 1979 when it was replaced by an arrangement by Mike Oldfield.

The track continued to be rearranged along with subsequent versions of the opening theme until 1999, when Drums and Fife was dropped and the opening theme used to close the show too. Drums and Fife returned in an arrangement by Nial Brown used from 2004 to 2006, and then by Dave Cooke as of January 2007. From September 2007 to June 2008 the closing theme was slightly extended and rearranged, again by Dave Cooke. From 2008 Drums and Fife was dropped again with the closing theme being the same as opening signature tune.

Motif

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.

Opening titles

1958–1989: The original opening titles showed a Blue Peter flag being lowered on a ship. By the late 1960s, the 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 presenter's names were always listed in 'seniority' based on the order in which they joined the programme. From 1972 to 1975, any edition that featured Valerie Singleton, whether she was in the studio co-presenting the show, being seen in a filmed insert or even featuring in a repeated film item from the archives, her name was always above the other presenters.

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 to 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: This era of 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.

2009–2011: In the same style to the 2008 titles; however, the presenters' pictures and first names were now featured in the titles, following the 'coming up' section.

2011–2013: The new Blue Peter titles were created by Mighty Giant. The titles were meant to capture the essence of the show in 20 short seconds. The sequence Mighty Giant created had the presenters playing and throwing an object that changes throughout. As it transforms it captures another element of Blue Peter. These objects include for Helen, the Blue Peter adventure box, Technology screen and a ball. Barney's elements of Blue Peter in the titles include a globe, a piece of gaming technology and a keyboard. Mighty Giant shot the presenters against a green screen and then combined them with 3d objects back at its Northern Quarter base to create the desired effect. The logo also had a make over with the ship being put into a blue circle and the original designed ship in white inside the circle. The writing is the same as the 2008 logo.

2013–2015: In 2013, the sequence had been replaced by a series of clips of previous programme activities.

2015–present: In 2015, the sequence has a colourful graphics with rainbow lines, as well as the letters of the logo and the Blue Peter ship logo were floating around in the titles. This sequence is designed by Liquid. It looks similar to the 1999–2004 and 2004–2006 ones.

General notes: The opening titles of every programme featured 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 (after 1995 and the introduction of the fourth presenter it was unusual to have all four presenters in the studio at the same time, save for special programmes). The only time this rule was 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. From September 2004, the opening titles only featured their first names, perhaps in a move to make the presenters appear more accessible to the audience. From September 2008, the titles went back to traditional style, not including presenters or their names. This however was changed again in 2009, when pictures of the presenters popped out from nowhere with their name by the side of them.

For the new Technology themed titles for September 2011, the presenters Helen and Barney appeared with specially shot sequences. The names however did not make a return. For the first time the presenters were interacting with different objects in the titles.

Closing credits

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 simple 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 was that the text scrolled along the bottom third of the screen from right to left, usually overlaid on a graphical bar in the style of the opening titles. 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. the 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 were during the Christmas programme, when the credits still scrolled from right to left, often with Christmassy themed drawings separating each crew member. Until 2006, and again from 2010, 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 (although the sparkling ship did not appear in the Christmas 2012 and 2013 editions).

When a "make" was featured in the programme, the creator of the item (invariably the retired Margaret Parnell or Gillian Shearing) was credited first (until credits were discontinued in 2008). An example of this would be "Dolls House make by Margaret Parnell".

Tributes, honours and awards

In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, Blue Peter was placed 6th.

In 1992, Blue Peter won the BAFTA for Best Children's Programme (Factual): Lewis Bronze.

In 2008, Blue Peter was nominated for the BAFTA Children's Kids Vote Award.

Asteroid 16197 Bluepeter is named in its honour. The asteroid was discovered on 7 January 2000, the day that the Blue Peter time capsules from 1971 and 1984 were unearthed.

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