Published: 16/10/2018

A Great British Institution

Today, Blue Peter is celebrating its 60th Birthday, making it the longest running children’s TV show in the world and a hugely significant part of British culture. Many have fond memories of watching Blue Peter as a child and feel a special connection with the show era they grew up with. The presenters, pets and appeals may change but they all helped to make Blue Peter an important part of childhood for generations.

Whether you remember watching Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves in the 1960’s and 70’s, Tim Vincent, Katy Hill and Stuart Miles in the 90’s or Matt Baker and Konnie Huq in the 2000’s, the presenters not only shaped memories, but often became part of pop culture with their catchphrases, adventures cooking and crafting skills (or the occasional lack of) inspiring people to take up new hobbies and pastimes.  While the beloved pets like Shep, Goldie, George the Tortoise and Willow became surrogate pets for those who didn’t have their own. 

Phrases like “Get down Shep…”, “Sticky-back plastic…”, “Here’s one I made earlier…” and of course the inevitable live TV bloopers often became part of British folklore and quotable tales for children and adults alike. Many still fondly remember the Lego man who lost his head in excitement at meeting Mark Curry, Lulu becoming quite literally the elephant in the room or the infamous Tracey Island “make”, all helped to keep viewers enthralled and became big news of the day.

Bringing The World To Your TV Screen

However the show never shied away from being more serious and regularly brought important and sometimes distressing issues around the world to UK children that they otherwise might not have known about, including leprosy.

Arguably the most iconic part of the show has been the Blue Peter appeals, which began in 1962 and were many people’s first experience of raising funds for or finding out about a charity. Viewers were first asked to collect stamps to raise money for homes for homeless families. The appeals continued each year, asking viewers to collect items such as scrap metal, old clothes and aluminium cans, in order to raise money for a wide range of charities at home and abroad.

Valerie Singleton was part of the first Blue Peter appeal and spoke about the experience as part of media interviews for Lepra recently saying:- “I always remember the first one I did with Chris Trace which was collecting books for lifeboats. I don’t think that when we did that first one we could have ever imagined where they were going to go and how successful…” Indeed one part that Valerie remembered fondly was the famous totalizer, which helped children see exactly how their efforts were going and “kept the excitement going” for both viewers and the presenters.

In 1979, Bring and Buy Sales began and children were encouraged to bring items from home to sell. These continued regularly, in order to add some variety to the fundraising efforts with UK and overseas based charities being chosen in alternate years. Speaking for Lepra recently, Tim Vincent, said: “Blue Peter was very good at bringing the world to people’s homes…Bring and Buy was a very easy way to help children be interactive…”

Blue Peter & Lepra

In 1996, Stuart Miles visited Brazil for the Lepra Bring and Buy appeal which raised £2.8 million. The money was used to fund the Blue Peter Health and Research Centre in Hyderabad, India. The BPHRC remains a lasting legacy of the fantastic energy and awareness the show and its presenters brought for charities, inspiring children to raise funds that truly helped to changed lives.

Stuart recently shared fond memories of that time saying it was “I don’t think that when it started that anyone thought that 60 years later we’d still be talking about this iconic children’s TV show” and that It was “…amazing to be connected with children and maybe for some this was the first time that they actually felt like they wanted to reach out and help others…”

Tim agreed, saying it was “Stupendous to raise that much money from a children’s show” and that the audience were loyal, wanting to help every year.

Happy Birthday Blue Peter

On the 60th birthday of the show, we here at Lepra would like to say a huge thank you to Blue Peter for the years of fun, learning and tireless fundraising and awareness building. Over the years, Blue Peter has raised more than £100 million for charity through their appeals and helped millions of lives to be changed for the better, whether donating or raising money, receiving help from one of the appeals or indeed from earning a Blue Peter badge.

A huge happy birthday and thank you to Blue Peter, its presenters, production teams and of course the viewers who helped make it so special. We’re proud to be part of the Blue Peter legacy and hope that it continues for many more years to come!

Watch the video to find out more about our special relationship to Blue Peter and Stuart Miles' recent trip to the Blue Peter Health & Research Centre...