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Beloved BBC show Blue Peter celebrates 60 years

After notching up 37 presenters, 25 pets and one million badges, Blue Peter is officially the world's longest running children's TV show. To mark its 60th birthday this month, Georgia Humphreys chats to current hosts Radzi Chinyanganya and Lindsey Russell

Blue Peter presenters will be re-uniting for a live 60th birthday special today
Georgia Humphreys

WHEN Blue Peter first aired in 1958, no one could have predicted it would still be going 60 years later: today, the world's longest running children's show will celebrate this historic birthday with a one-hour live special on CBBC.

Here's a look at how Blue Peter has transcended the decades, with the help of current presenters Radzi Chinyanganya and Lindsey Russell.

:: THE FAMOUS FACES

There have been a whopping 37 Blue Peter presenters over the years, with John Noakes, who presented the series for 12 and a half years, the longest serving male.

The anniversary special will feature the return of Valerie Singleton, Peter Purves, Anthea Turner, Tim Vincent and Konnie Huq – Blue Peter's longest-serving female presenter.

"To have all these people in a room is not something that's ever happened before or might never happen again," says Belgium-born Russell (27), who joined in 2013.

"It's really great to all be together and to remember John Noakes, who we sadly lost last year."

"It's surreal to be a part of an institution,"

:: THE SOUGHT-AFTER BADGES

There are eight types of badges; blue, silver, green, sport, purple, orange, gold and the 60th anniversary diamond.

Viewers earn a blue badge by sending in an interesting letter, poem, picture or story (Blue Peter reads and responds to every single letter it receives) or appearing on the programme.

It's estimated the show has awarded more than one million badges to date.

"Or audience today is the best audience Blue Peter has ever had," Russell gushes.

"They're so proactive, they're all earning their diamond badges, which are around just for the 60th."

She adds: "I've met kids whose T-shirts are nearly falling down because they're weighed down with that many Blue Peter badges.

"It's so nice to think about what actually goes into that because it's not just 'send in a form, you've got one'."

:: IT'S HUGELY INSPIRING FOR KIDS

The Blue Peter Appeal started in 1962, when viewers were asked to collect postage stamps to raise money for homes for homeless people. It's estimated that, across the 49 appeals since, children have raised the equivalent of more than £100m.

When Wolverhampton-born Chinyanganya (31) gets approached by fans, he realises the amazing impact he is having with his job.

He says: "I do something called the happy dance [on the show] and when kids do the happy dance, I always think 'Yes!'."

Asked about being a role model, he adds: "There's an obligation I feel I have to any child that meets me or sees me on the TV screen to conduct myself in a certain way.

"Even if it's the fact that I get my hair wet because I've got afro hair and not many black people like to get their hair wet – I'm trying to send a subliminal message that actually, it's all right for you to swim."

:: IT'S ALWAYS FILMED LIVE

Filming Blue Peter is no mean feat, especially as the presenters don't use an autocue.

"It's meant to sound like we are talking to the kids in their living room," Russell says.

"We want them to feel like we are the only person they're chatting to and I think an autocue would take away from that."

:: THE BLUE PETER PETS

Nine dogs, nine cats, five tortoises and two parrots have been a part of the show over the decades.

George the tortoise, who died in 2004, takes the crown as the longest-serving pet.

Russell's most emotional moment from the programme actually involves a guide dog that was trained up from birth and given to a young man called Callum on his 18th birthday.

"Seeing that process and being a part of that process, I was really proud, and just seeing how she was going to, quite literally, change his life," she recalls fondly.

"That's what Blue Peter does, that's what the brand is all about, that's what the badge is all about. That was a huge moment."

:: THE SHOWS ARE CONSTANTLY EXCITING

A big part of Blue Peter? The presenters getting properly stuck in – including the challenges the presenters take on: for the 60th, Russell has learned to fly a hot air balloon solo.

Chinyanganya's most memorable moment was walking between the cities of Selma and Montgomery in the US.

"It was the march that Martin Luther King went on, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that," he says.

"I got to meet people who are the most empowering, courageous and inspiring people I've ever had the privilege of speaking to."

:: Blue Peter's Big Birthday, today, CBBC, 5pm.

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