16th April, 2012
A letter of note
I love rummaging through old boxes of junk, and uncovering gems. Yesterday, during a particularly determined de-clutter, I found this letter from Blue Peter, the world’s longest-running children’s’ TV show.
My teachers really encouraged me to draw after I showed some early promise. I did a drawing of a pig when I was five and they promptly walked me around every classroom to show off said pig, which was embarrassing. Also, my Mam continually heaped praise on my drawings, regularly telling me that I should “send that in”, without any real advice or knowledge as to where anyone sends anything at that age.
In 1980, I was obsessed with two things: drawing, and dinosaurs. The two came together with real purpose for Blue Peter’s competition that year. They asked nippers like me to send in drawings and paintings of dinosaurs for a Natural History Museum centenary poster thing. I chose to paint a pterodactyl.
Anyway, I didn’t win the big prize. I recall we’d always be cross because the worst drawings would win — really bad scribbly stick-men things usually, as though anything good was dubious and possibly created with help from parents. Still, when I read the following words, I was incredibly happy:
Although your entry didn’t win one of the Top prizes, we liked it so much we are awarding you a Blue Peter Competition badge and a special Natural History Museum bookmark.
The badge (highly sought after at the time) didn’t really thrill me. What I do remember is how being a runner-up encouraged me to keep drawing and painting. It’s one of those things I look back on fondly, a time when I learned how exciting and interesting it was to be creative, and make things out of nothing.
The fact that it came from my generations Blue Peter dream team of Simon Groom, Peter Duncan, and the lovely Sarah Greene makes it that bit more special.
Figure 1: My generation’s dream team of Simon Groom, Sarah Greene, and Peter Duncan.
As time moved on, I soon outgrew Blue Peter, as kids still do. These days I don’t imagine it’s up to much or as relevant as it was in a time long before the internet. Even so, when I was a kid it helped shape me and expand my interests, and for that I’ll always be grateful to the BBC.
Those were glory days. It was always Summer, always carefree, we were always out playing A-team. There were no worries in the world. Finding this letter has brought those memories back into sharp focus, and I love that.