Liverpool Echo

Blue Peter, 60 years of telly magic

WHEN I was little you were either in the Blue Peter gang or you weren’t.

And by being in ‘the gang’ I mean you were a fully paid up member of the sticky-backed plastic appreciation society. You knew what an Advent crown was, yearned perhaps for a Blue Peter badge and admired the sunken garden.

Crucially you did not watch Magpie. For Magpie was on The Other Side.

john noakes

It was unscripted, slightly improv and light years away from the ordered BBC world of John Noakes, milk bottle top appeals and Shep the dog.

Some have argued that this children’s TV split exemplified a class divide. That Blue Peter’s audience was made up only of kids who had parents who owned their own homes and who had shelves of classic children’s literature in their bedrooms.

Rubbish.

Blue Peter welcomed all kids from all backgrounds and still does.

It might have represented aspiration, though. My mum worked in a factory, my dad in Plessey’s. They wanted me to know there was more, to have more, than they ever did.

And BP, with its presenters off on summer expeditions and arts and crafts makes and guests who could talk about Egyptian mummies did just that.

The programme is 60 years old this week and it’s easy to look back on it all through rose-tinted spectacles.

Yet I would argue that production standards on children’s shows have declined.

From what I can see there are a lot of imports or repeats – perhaps inevitably as budgets are slashed – but surely kids deserve high quality shows here in 2018 just as they did in 1978?

We need to find the next Blue Peter. Government ministers are throwing cash at the project but it isn’t just about cash.

It’s about innovation and imagination.

And accepting that in the right hands even the wackiest of ideas – like a Tracy Island made empty toilet rolls, squeezy bottles and a dab of paint – can create telly magic.

MY husband has invested in a new doorbell which he proudly screwed into place one day when I was in work.

I came home, rang the smart new bell-push – and was treated to the chimes of Hakuna Matata from Disney’s Lion King. The next night he’d changed it – to Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.

I think it’s hilarious. The kids are mortified.

And for that alone it’s worth the odd looks from the postman.

First published in Liverpool Echo, 20 October 2018