Noakes: I hated `Blue Peter'

JOHN NOAKES, the Yorkshireman forever typecast as the daredevil presenter of Blue Peter, loathed the show that made him a household name, it was revealed yesterday.

And had Noakes been able to mask his Yorkshire accent in a casting interview with Sir Lawrence Olivier, he may have denied a generation of children his regular televised tussles with Shep, the excitable Blue Peter collie.

Noakes's admission that he wished he had never set foot inside the Blue Peter studio came as he prepared to make his return to television on ITV with a new series, Mad About Pets.

He said: "Given my time again I wouldn't have done Blue Peter. I'd done theatre for six years and was tired," Noakes told the Radio Times.

Noakes, who quit the show in 1978 after 12 years, had only joined Blue Peter because it was regular work after six years of acting.

"I'd have done reasonably well. Olivier wanted me once, but I'd just played a Yorkshireman and the blasted accent had returned.

"He wondered if I could lose it in three weeks and my drama teacher said: `It took him two years to get rid of it last time'."

Despite the effervescence on-screen that endeared him to millions of children and gave the world the catchphrase of desperation, "Get Down, Shep!", Noakes said he was remorselessly exploited by the BBC. "The pressure was terrible," he said. "One year I did nine weeks with only one-and-a- half days off. I collapsed on the floor and couldn't go on. That's the nearest I came to a breakdown.

"When I left Blue Peter I was offered the part of Willy Mossop in Hobson's Choice at Oxford and three weeks of doing that gave me the equivalent satisfaction to 12 years of TV." He said he was never paid what he was promised by the BBC and was scathing about the show's editor. "Biddy Baxter was an awful woman," he said. "I don't want to talk about her."