Who knew Blue Peter was so… Jew Peter!
Blue Peter at 60

Who knew Blue Peter was so… Jew Peter!

As the iconic children’s show celebrates its 60th birthday and 5,000+ episodes, we take a look at its finest Jewish moments

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Blue Peter’s 60th birthday cake
Blue Peter’s 60th birthday cake

1. Blue Suede Jews

Martyn Lopes-Dias, A.K.A. Elvis Shmelvis tells Jewish News: “In 2005, I led 76 other Elvis tributes all singing Viva Las Vegas at Selfridges, London and we set the Guinness World Record for the most number of Elvis impersonators all singing together in one place. The next day we performed it again live on Blue Peter. Afterwards, I was given a Blue Peter badge and I knew that going home to my two boys with only one badge would cause a problem. I needed another, so I went into the presenters’ dressing room and spoke to Liz Barker and Zoe Salmon. Straight away they took off their own badges and gave them to me. Problem solved!”


2. Happy feet

Jewish News reader Carol Rosenberg-Fox  tells us: “Back in 1979, I was pregnant with my daughter. The first time the new theme music was played, my daughter kicked for the first time. I wrote to Ms Baxter and received a cloth Blue Peter badge to sew onto something.”

Elvis Shmelvis with presenters Liz Barker and Zoe Salmon

3. Heritage trail

Jewish presenter Joel Defries (2008 to 2010) traced his Jewish roots on a special Blue Peter episode titled Joel’s Journey, which was broadcast on 27 January 2009. It featured him exploring his Jewish heritage, by meeting a Torah scribe, sitting in on the Shabbat preparations of Rabbi David Lister, attending a batmitzvah and finally visiting Auschwitz, where he met Holocaust survivor Freda Wineman, who was returning to the Nazi death camp for the first time. He also explored the traditions of Chanukah and visited the family of Francesca Weiner, the then eight-year-old granddaughter of Rabbi Tony Bayfield, then-head of the Movement for Reform Judaism.

The famous Blue Peter badge!

4. On Song

Thelate Caron Keating introduced London School of Jewish Song onto the show in 1989, just after the group returned from a series of concerts in Russia in the early days of Glasnost. The group performed Anim Zemiros and Shir Shir, before being interviewed by the presenter. One child said: “We sang synagogue songs and they all joined in, they couldn’t help themselves, they were dancing, singing, they were kissing all of us.” Caron then poignantly asked: “Do you think since Glasnost it’s become easier for Jewish people in Russia?” The youngsters all nodded. “They wear their yarmulkes now, but they are still not allowed to teach religion to the children. It’s getting better, slowly but surely.”

5. Dung dynamite

The well-known clip of Lulu The Elephant causing havoc on air during her appearance on Blue Peter in 1969 became the topic of conversation for Jewish broadcaster Denis Norden and Paul Smith, the future producer of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, over lunch. They wondered if they could make an entire show based on funny outtakes. The iconic Blue Peter blooper inspired It’ll Be Alright on the Night, which ran for an incredible 30 years.

Lulu the Elephant’s mishap in the studio inspired Denis Norden to pitch an idea for It’ll Be Alright On The Night

6. Editor’s chair

Throughout the programme’s 60-year history, there have been just seven editors and among them is Lewis Bronze. He began his BBC career with John Craven’s Newsround in 1981 and moved on to Blue Peter, first as assistant editor in 1983, and then as editor for eight years in 1988. During his time with the show, he won a BAFTA in 1992 for Best Children’s Programme and oversaw more than 850 Blue Peter episodes.

7. Badge of Honour

In 2016, Steven Spielberg finally achieved the dream of a lifetime: a gold Blue Peter badge. The Jewish film director joined a select group, including the Queen, JK Rowling and Sir David Attenborough by being awarded the show’s highest accolade. Saying he had “always secretly privately wanted” the badge, he added: “I’m going to wear it with pride. I’ve been aware of Blue Peter ever since I started making movies here in 1980. I made Raiders of the Lost Ark here in the UK in 1980. This is my first Blue Peter badge … so thank you.”

8. Here’s One I Made Earlier!

Youngsters have been tuning in for six decades to follow the Blue Peter makes, which normally involved copious amounts of silver foil, toilet rolls and sticky back plastic. The most popular make was Tracy Island, which received 100,000 requests for the factsheet in 1993 and was inspired by the popular series from Jewish Thunderbirds creator, Gerry Anderson.

Anthea Turner with the Tracy Island make, which received 100,000 requests for the factsheet

9. Frank discussion

In May 1976, presenter Lesley Judd interviewed Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, after he agreed to bring his daughter’s diaries to Britain. It was the first time the diary had been shown to anyone outside of the Frank family. Co-presenter Peter Purves tells Otto after the interview: “The diary really is one of the most precious objects we have ever had.”

10. Name That Tune

The Blue Peter signature tune, Barnacle Bill, has evolved many times over the years, but the very first version was arranged by Jewish composer Sidney Torch and the New Century Orchestra. It was used from October 1958 to January 1979.


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