Sunday Mirror: Books with Deirdre O'Brien
"A fascinating insight into what made Blue Peter such an important part of the nation's collective childhood"
A trip down memory lane
"The words Blue Peter bring back so many memories. We can all remember our best moments, whether they involved Goldie the Labrador, sticky back plastic or John Noakes hanging off Nelson's Column. This book takes the reader back in time and runs through the varied and fascinating history of the iconic programme. Alex Leger's text is witty and compelling. His anecdotes amuse, and the insight into the complex and often dangerous action behind the scenes is fascinating. The numerous photos throughout the book further enhance the experience. Definitely recommended to anybody who grew up in the UK any time in the last 40 years and owned a TV set"
A terrific read
By Oxon scribe
"This is essential reading for everyone who watched (and loved) Blue Peter over its 50+ year history - and there must be millions of us ! Leger is a great raconteur and has obviously enjoyed every minute of his exciting career with the show. He is an action man in the truest sense; early in the book he reveals that whist still a student and as a young army officer he escaped narrowly death on at least two occasions. He tells how he he joined the BBC and got a job with Blue Peter. At his appointment board he mistook the assistant editor for the legendary Biddy Baxter and addressed all his answers to the wrong person. No matter, the BBC recognised an extraordinary talent; took him on and for the next 30 something years he served the programme and its audience brilliantly.
He took most of the show's many presenters on adventures all over the world. There is much on-camera jumping out of aeroplanes and much off-screen battling with hostile terrains and officialdom. He is honest but kindly and generous about the shows on screen 'talent' But reading between the lines one or two of them deserved a slap and would have got one from a lesser man. The book is not only an un-putdownable read but a unique record of how one of the world's greatest and most influential television programmes was made. This is a riveting read and one that no-one who loves television should be without."
Here's one I enjoyed earlier...
By Avid Reader
This book should be required reading for anyone who grew up watching Blue Peter.
Alex Leger is an institution on the show. He might just be the most important Blue Peter legend you've never heard of - until now. For 36 years, yes 36, he produced and directed some of Blue Peter's most famous adventures at home and abroad: reports that captivated generations of youngsters (and, I suspect, their parents and grandparents) in the days when, let's face it, Blue Peter was the cream of children's telly. Leger joined the show in 1975, hired by editrix Biddy Baxter, working with show favourite John Noakes (a true professional who always prepared three questions and a joke for each interview), Lesley Judd (lovely) and Peter Purves (an absolutely top bloke). He retired in 2011, having worked with every single presenter since. That's about 30 or so from my count though I ran out of fingers! Many of the best adventures were the result of his yearly soul-searching to come up with ever more remote destinations, and thrilling stunts, for presenters to visit and participate in, trailing Alex and his camera crew.
Blue Peter: Behind the Badge might not be the sort of book you read cover-to-cover. I flicked through it (chapters are dated so you can seek out the years you remember) and found much to enjoy. My first memories were John Noakes precariously climbing Nelson's column to give it a clean, though I now realise I must've seen that famous sequence as a repeat (only being aged one or so when it was originally recorded!). Another must-read section for me was Simon Groom in Ethiopia reporting on the 1984-85 famine and the Blue Peter appeal to provide water distribution. Leger is incredibly diplomatic about the current incarnation of Blue Peter, but there's already been plenty of outrage about the decision to move it from terrestrial BBC One onto a digital channel. One can't help feel that the programme's reach is a fraction of what it once was. But this is a book to sink back into some welcome nostalgia of a gentler, dare I say it, kinder age when Blue Peter was the height of entertainment for British kids. Highly recommended.
For over 30 years, Alex Ledger was responsible for bringing to the screen the varied slew of travel, action and adventure films that inspired generations of young "Blue Peter" viewers. Plenty has been written before about what went on "behind the scenes" but this is a unique take from "behind the camera."
The author has a particular gift for acute character observations. The "Indiana Jones" style custodian of the Pyramids, young AIDS victim in Malawi and the many service personnel who dive, fly and jump off buildings with the team are all brought vividly to life. The fascination, though, comes in what went into getting the films. Production budgets, logistics, the need to find helpful people "on the ground" willing to let a film crew into their lives... and later the bureaucracy and cost cutting that brought an era to an end... are discussed in readable depth.
Sensibly leaving out the "scandals" covered by the press and other books about the programme, Leger settles instead for a (perhaps unintentional) running analogy with his experiences over many years with his beloved Solomon Islands. From a perfect 1960s memory he periodically re-visits to find an ever more greedy and eroded civilisation, the changing values eventually aiding his decision to retire.
This decent into layering greater contemporary values of superficiality, financial and risk control on a programme founded on ignoring all of them in favour of a "just do it" attitude explains to viewers like myself why our childhood memories are no longer possible in today's TV climate. Still, Ledger is careful to stress the positives - like immediacy - that the newer regime can bring. A few errors aside (the "Barron Knights," not "The Wurzels" recorded "Get Down Shep" and a few stories appear repeated in the book) this - literally - weighty tome (1.4kg / 25 by 19.5cm) is a lavishly illustrated and glossily printed memory for any `Blue Peter' fan to treasure.