Blue Peter



Simon Thomas (mostly)


Konnie Huq, Matt Baker and Liz Barker

Paul Dickenson (Commentator, Champions)


BBC1, 16 October 1958 to present

(game sections 2001-5)


Blue Peter, as we all know, is the longest-running kids' TV programme in the whole wide world, and rightly so. It's also not a gameshow. But sometimes, it likes to pretend it is.

Our story really begins in 1995, when Blue Peter went from two shows a week - Monday and Thursday - to three - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The trouble was that for ages they didn't really seem to know what to do with the extra 25 minutes. The Friday shows were the big problem - seemingly thrown together without the care given to the other shows, they had a noticeably different character to the "regular" shows, and it was a formless, directionless and generally somewhat joyless character.

So it continued for some years. Then in 1999, enter Steve Hocking. The new editor turned the Friday show into a light entertainment extravaganza, with kids coming on to show off their talents, a weekly filmed comedy serial and, often as not, a big name pop group performing their latest single. (Often Steps, but we won't hold that against him). All it needed now was some games and the show could take its rightful place as the new Crackerjack.

In 2001, the show was allowed to run all the way through the summer, with pre-recorded shows filling in while the team went on their Expedition, followed by a run of live roadshows where games were an integral part of the fun. The games were then carried through into the studio-based shows, and there have been some one-off specials as well. What follows is a list of all the games we can remember.

Pirate Madness

Played on the summer roadshows, this was a classic kids' TV scramble-over-inflatables game, the inflatables in question taking the form of ships. Two teams of kids competed to, um, collect stuff, and they were mildly hindered by a couple of pirates, one of whom, in a nice bit of self-reference, was called Barnacle Bill. They did, however, miss a trick by failing to fly yer actual blue peter from the ships' masts.

Dance Competition

Also from the summer roadshows, an interminable come-up-on-stage-and-have-a-go section in which anything up to twenty kids did their stuff and were judged by Pop Idol's Nicky Chapman. The winners got to dance with Gareth Gates on a subsequent studio show.

Double Or Drop

The cabbage-balancing classic from Crackerjack, which was played on the roadshows when rain made the inflatables too slippery to be used safely. Hosted by Simon Thomas in a kitschy sequined suit, it went on to be regularly played in the studio on the Friday shows, even gaining its own signature tune. "Blue Peter would like to assure viewers that no cabbages were harmed in the making of this game."

Pairs Win Prizes

Pelmanism with some general knowledge questions thrown in. Two kids were asked questions in turn; a correct answer allowed them to open two cupboard doors in a wall with, well, cupboard doors in it. Originally, there were photos of BP presenters and pets behind the doors and two the same won a prize. Later on, this was changed to objects that were one half of a pair (a knife and fork, for example). On one show, there was some confusion when "Fish and chips" and "Bacon and eggs" were two of the pairs, and a combination of egg and chips was disallowed. Again, a feature of the Friday show, this took it turnabout with Double Or Drop.

Brain Of Blue Peter (1)

A series of on-the-buzzer quizzes featuring three contestants. Usually played outside in the Blue Peter garden, and on Mondays for some reason. There were several heats, each one on a different subject (including pop music, sport and Blue Peter itself) and then the winners returned for a general knowledge final. Simon Thomas did most of them, though we think Matt Baker did one as well.

The Quest

A mystery was explained to viewers in about eight weekly installments, and the challenge was to write in with the solution before the big reveal. The format was straight out of Puzzle Trail, and the productions were lavish, with the all presenters' acting abilities stretched, and some cameo roles for former presenters and CBBC friends. Four Quests aired, always on the Friday show, between autumn 2001 and spring 2004.

Fan-Tasy Island

All the presenters had a bash at doing this one. There's a celebrity in the studio and two or three contestants compete to be the one to interview them, by answering questions about the celeb. Progress was indicated by movement along a series of "stepping stones" painted on the studio floor toward a raised area where the celeb was seated, sometimes with a palm tree prop. We assume all the kids got to meet their hero after the show, if not actually on air. Later changed to a non-competitive version where only one child took part but did so against the clock, so that time taken to answer the questions was deducted from the time allocated for the interview.

Backstage Pass

A variation on Fan-Tasy Island. In this one, the celeb was in another room and contestants (about seven or eight of them) answered multiple-choice questions about the celeb by standing on one of three circles in a blatant lift from Runaround. Simon Thomas was the usual questionmaster, though we think Konnie did it once as well. Either Konnie or Liz would be sitting with the celeb to ask the question to them.

Blue Peter Champions

An entertaining cross between Superstars and We are the Champions. Two teams of kids' TV presenters take part in a series of sporting challenges and, um, that's it, really. Done twice, each time taking up two whole (recorded) shows. The first, in 2004, was enlivened by the presence of Dick and Dom, and by one team cheating in the relay race by abandoning the track altogether and taking a short-cut across the grass (and being awarded the win on account of their outstanding artistic interpretation of the rules). A second contest followed in 2005; amusingly, when Simon Thomas uttered the famous WATC catchphrase "Away you go!" at the end, the assembled celebs just stood there, and there was a rather obvious edit before they all jumped into the pool like they were supposed to. Paul Dickenson and Simon Thomas shared commentary duties on both incarnations.

Brain Of Blue Peter (2)

Blue Peter does Test the Nation, basically, complete with studio teams, red-button interactivity and blatant plugs for other BBC shows. Rounds on music, observation and "illusion", the latter including a (deliberately) literally impossible question which everyone got awarded the point for, no matter which answer they chose. This was revived in 2006 as the ludicrously difficult Four Nations Challenge, with Liz Barker asking the questions.


It may be a latecomer to the world of games and quizzes, but Blue Peter has produced a fair few future gameshow personalities: Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Sarah Greene, Janet Ellis, Mark Curry, John Leslie, Anthea Turner, Tim Vincent, Katy Hill, Richard Bacon, Konnie Huq, Gethin Jones, Joel Defries of Keep Your Enemies Close, and not forgetting Backdate host Valerie Singleton.

Meanwhile, doing things the other way around to all of the above, Barney Harwood hosted several game shows before joining as a presenter in 2011. Stuart Miles was also a game show host before he started on Blue Peter.

Web links

Wikipedia entry

The BBC's Blue Peter site

See also

Blue Peter You Decide, a 2013 search for a new presenter.


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