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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK


Return of an 'idiot called Noakes'

John Noakes acting his role as the Blue Peter idiot

Blue Peter presenters of all ages have gathered in London for a special programme to mark the show's 40th birthday.

Great TV they made earlier including John Noakes
It was just like the old days as John Noakes stole the show by tossing a pancake which then became lodged in the TV studio roof space.

Daredevil Noakes was once famed for climbing to such heights and current presenter Stuart Miles told him: "We'll be sending you up there to find it later."

The presenter, now 64, was certainly living up to his reputation.

He says he survived the gruelling job of presenting by "developing this idiot called John Noakes" as his on-screen persona.

[ image: The current Blue Peter team with dog Mabel]
The current Blue Peter team with dog Mabel
The first presenter of what is the world's longest running children's show, Leila Williams, who now runs a pub in London was among those who joined in the fun.

She presented the show alongside Christopher Trace for four years after being booked to appear as an assistant for just two weeks.

"Chris and I started off wearing very formal clothes," she recalls, "but quickly changed into a more casual look. How could Chris play with model railways with a shirt and tie?"

Also there were Anthea Turner, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves, who approves of the current incarnation of the programme.

'Good honest TV'

He says the show is still "good, honest, fast-moving, entertaining television which children enjoy, whatever they may say in front of their peers".

Anthea Turner went on to present GMTV and the National Lottery draw, but says now that her "happiest times on television will always be with Blue Peter".

[ image: Up, up and away: Blue Peter marks its birthday outside BBC TV Centre]
Up, up and away: Blue Peter marks its birthday outside BBC TV Centre
The stars formed into teams to compete for the golden squeezy bottle by carrying out tasks like spinning plates, preparing pancakes and riding motorised oil drums.

Among those who sent messages of support to the programme were Elton John, Rolf Harris and teenage pop stars Cleopatra.

Vintage clips, including the 1969 incident in which a baby elephant ran amok in the studio, were also aired.

To round off the show they sang a chorus of Happy Birthday and cut a cake.

Time capsule

Friday night's show marked the end of the TV celebrations which began last Saturday with an evening of BBC Two programmes dedicated to Blue Peter.

But there is not long to wait before more Blue Peter memories are unearthed.

In 2000 it will be time for the Blue Peter Time Capsule, which has been buried in the show's garden behind Television Centre in London since 1971, to be dug up.

It will reveal photos of Noakes, Purves and Singleton, the show's pets Petra, Jason and Patch, a set of the new decimal coins and a letter saying what the programme was and who the presenters were.

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