BLUE PETER first appeared in b&w on our television screens
on October 16th, 1958, but it wasn't until September of 1964 that the
very first Blue Peter Book was published by LUTTERWORTH PRESS
in association with the BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION.
It presumably sold well, for the next edition in 1965 was published by
the BBC itself, and continued to be so for many years until WORLD
INTERNATIONAL LTD., then PEDIGREE, took over.
In 2011, it was announced that there would be no more Blue Peter
books, as yearly sales had declined from around 100,000 - when they
were at their peak - to around only 13,000. (In fact, there'd been none in
1987, '91 and '94-'98.) There was also a Blue Peter Yearbook - actually
a magazine - in 1993, but it may have ended up being a 'one-off' as I
never saw any further issues in subsequent years.
The best-known presenters were CHRISTOPHER TRACE,
VALERIE SINGLETON, JOHN NOAKES, PETER PURVES and
LESLEY JUDD, and few presenters since then have been as memorable or
as highly esteemed by viewers as the 'famous five' were in the '60s and '70s.
A couple or so years back, I was sitting out in my garden shed listening to the
radio, when LAST WORD paid tribute to a famous cyclist who had passed
away. John Noakes had once interviewed him on Blue Peter, and to hear a
clip of the younger Noakes' familiar voice emanating from my radio
took me right back to the '70s when he had yet been a regular
presenter on the show.
Christopher Trace had been the main man from the programme's
inception in 1958, of course, and it was sad when he left on July 24th,
1967, leaving Val and John to present the programme alone until Peter
Purves joined in November. Curiously, the Fourth Blue Peter Book makes
absolutely no reference to Christopher Trace's involvement in the show that
year, perhaps because (as legend has it) the production staff found him diffi-
cult to deal with and, secure in the knowledge that Noakes had proven a hit
with the viewers, accepted Chris's oft-threatened resignation when he again
offered it during some spat or other. No photos, no mention, which seems
unnecessarily spiteful considering that Chris had spent nine years with
the show, being the longest-serving presenter at that time.
The Seventh Blue Peter Book is also a bit unusual, in that it's the
only one I have in my collection which has a 'wraparound' photo on the
cover, all the other ones using the same photo on the back as on the front,
although there may be other exceptions to this practice of which I remain
unaware. (Yup, I've just acquired Book seventeen from 1980, which
also has a similar style of cover - as do at least the next three.)
Anyway, this is the first in a two-part gallery, featuring all fifteen
books that featured Chris, Val, John, Peter and Lesley on the covers
('though not all at the one time, obviously). Without the original 'famous
five' presenters, Blue Peter was never quite the same - at least to those of a
certain age. These images will hopefully stir a few happy memories in the
hearts and minds of those who grew up in the '60s and '70s, and to whom
the programme was a regular part of their lives. (You'll have to hold on
until the next instalment to see Lesley, I'm afraid, but she's well-
worth waiting for, I'm sure you'll agree.)
Part Two coming soon!