Blue Peter is 65: Badges, presenters and pets through the years

The longest-running show in kids' TV reaches a milestone birthday.

Blue Peter hosts
Blue Peter is 65. (BBC)

Blue Peter is 65 today and the longest-running kids TV programme in world is still going strong in its seventh decade on screen.

The BBC children's show is getting ready to celebrate its milestone birthday in a special episode on Friday where Prince William will be awarded the green Blue Peter badge for his work with The Earthshot Prize.

We look back over the show's history, its prestigious presenter line-up, and what all of those badges are for.

Blue Peter's 65 years on air

Blue Peter first aired on 16 October, 1958, brought in by BBC's head of children's programmes Owen Reed as there was nothing on TV at the time for children aged between five and eight.

He was inspired by a previous BBC Manchester programme called Children's Television Club that broadcast from a ferry in Liverpool, and apparently loved the Blue Peter badge on the side of the ferry so much during a visit that he decided to take the show to London and rename it.

Blue Peter hosts
Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes were hosting favourites. (BBC)

The Blue Peter is a maritime signal that means a ship is ready to leave, and Reed chose it as his show's name to represent setting out on a voyage of adventure.

To begin with, Blue Peter was mainly studio based but when new editor Biddy Baxter joined in 1962 it had a revamp, bringing in many of the features viewers today will know and love such as appeals, pets and badges.

Blue Peter's first annual was published in 1965 and came out each year until 2010, while the show moved from black and white to colour between 1970 and 1974.

Blue Peter hosts
The show is known for its daring challenges. (BBC)

The first Blue Peter garden opened outside Television Centre in 1974, featuring sculptures in tribute to the show's beloved pets and burying the Blue Peter time capsule.

When the show moved from its base at Television Centre in London to Media City in Salford in 2011, the garden moved with it.

Blue Peter has moved days of the week a number of times over the years and now broadcasts live on Fridays at 5pm on CBBC, with repeats over the weekend and a British Sign Language version on Tuesdays.

What do the Blue Peter badges mean?

Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort wears a 'Blue Peter' badge on her coat as she visits the host venue of this year's Eurovision Song Contest, the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, on April 26, 2023. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Queen Camilla has a coveted gold Blue Peter badge. (AFP via Getty Images)

Prince William is about to be awarded his green badge on Friday and each summer viewers are challenged to earn as many badges as they can - but what do the coveted Blue Peter badges mean?

Blue - the main badge, given to viewers who appear on the show or achieve something amazing. Badge holders get free entry to lots of UK visitor attractions, and of course, the prestige of having earned a badge.

Silver - awarded for a different creative contribution to people who already have a badge.

Green - for environmental, conservation and nature-themed achievements.

Gold - the rarest badge, for exceptional achievements and bravery.

Orange - competition winners and runners up get these badges.

Purple - a fan club badge for reviewing the show and suggesting items to cover.

Sport - earned over the summer for taking part in sport.

Who has presented Blue Peter?

Tim Vincent Diane-Louise Jordan And Stuart Miles in 1994.
 (Credit: REX)
Tim Vincent, Diane-Louise Jordan And Stuart Miles in 1994. (REX)

Of course, a 65-year-old TV series collects up a fair number of presenters over the years - and Blue Peter has had 42 hosts so far.

The show was captained by Christopher Trace and Leila Williams at its launch, but the most famous presenting line-up included Valerie Singleton, who was with the show for nearly 10 years, John Noakes who served 12 years, and Peter Purves who was on air for 10 years, all between the 60s and 70s.

Singleton, Noakes and Purves oversaw some classic Blue Peter moments, including the infamous visit from Lulu the baby elephant who relieved herself twice on the studio floor, then pulled over her unamused keeper who slipped in it.

Richard Bacon, Konnie Huq, Stuart Miles and Katy Hill. (BBC)
Richard Bacon, Konnie Huq, Stuart Miles and Katy Hill. (BBC)

Other famous Blue Peter presenters have included Sarah Greene, Peter Duncan, Yvette Fielding, John Leslie, Diane-Louise Jordan, Caron Keating, Anthea Turner (who demonstrated how to build Tracy Island out of yoghurt pots), Tim Vincent, Katy Hill and Richard Bacon.

Konnie Huq was one of the longest-serving presenters with 10 years at the show, while Matt Baker and Helen Skelton were famed for their daring challenges and sporting achievements.

The current presenters are Joel Mawhinney and Abby Cook.

Which pets have appeared on Blue Peter?

Blue Peter loves its pets, and while there is a show pet keeper, some of the dogs ended up living with the presenters who were paid extra to look after them.

The first and most famous pet was dog Petra, who appeared from 1962 until 1977 - although it later emerged that the first Petra the puppy had died a few days after her first appearance and was replaced with a lookalike so as not to upset the young viewers.

Pets have a long history at Blue Peter. (BBC)
Pets have a long history at Blue Peter. (BBC)

Blue Peter's pet dogs have also included Shep, Goldie, Bonnie, and a series of guide dogs.

The show's first cat was called Jason, followed by cat siblings Jack and Jill. One of the show's most notable cats was Socks, who was at the centre of a rare Blue Peter scandal as viewers had actually chosen the name Cookie for the new cat but were overruled by show bosses - who then had to get in a second cat, this time called Cookie.

Blue Peter has also kept a succession of tortoises and two parrots.

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