Blue Peter at 60: How did the longest running children’s show come about?

Programme’s debut episode was broadcast in October 1958

Tom Parfitt
Thursday 18 April 2019 23:31 BST
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Iconic moment from Blue Peter when Lulu the elephant was brought on set in 1969

Blue Peter celebrates its 60th birthday today, marking a significant milestone for Britain’s longest-running children’s television show.

The programme made its debut in October 1958, and has remained a firm fixture in the BBC’s schedule ever since.

More than 5,000 episodes have been broadcast, with its most notable hosts including John Noakes, Peter Purves, Janet Ellis and Anthea Turner.

How did Blue Peter come about?

Blue Peter was devised by BBC producer John Hunter Blair, who had been asked by Owen Reed, the corporation’s head of children’s programming, to devise a show for five- to eight-year-olds.

The show’s debut episode, which was 15 minutes in length, was broadcast in black and white on 16 October 1958.

Its first presenters were Christopher Trace, a relatively unknown actor, and model Leila Williams, best known for winning the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant in 1957.

In the following years, Blue Peter’s audience grew and by the mid-1960s, the programme had become a staple of children’s television.

Although the show has undergone several changes since then, its main characteristics have remained, including its iconic blue badges and arts and crafts segments, complete with references to sticky-backed plastic.

When is Blue Peter’s 60th anniversary?

The 60th anniversary of Blue Peter’s first ever episode is 16 October.

Former presenters including Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves will join the current hosts, Lindsey Russell and Radzi Chinyanganya, to take part in a “here’s one I made earlier” crafting challenge.

Blue Peter's presenters in 1972 (from the left) Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes with his dog Shep 

The singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who will be among the celebrity guests, will be given a gold Blue Peter badge.

How can I watch Blue Peter’s 60th anniversary?

The special episode, titled Blue Peter’s Big 60th Birthday, will be broadcast live at 5pm on 16 October on the CBBC Channel.

It will also be live-streamed on BBC iPlayer and later repeated on BBC Two.

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