Updated: Mar 6, 2020
So – the team at Blue Peter call up and ask if you want to be a guest on their World Book Day 2020 show. What do you reply? YES, of course!
But there were a few questions we wanted the answers to. What should we wear? What questions would they ask us? Does ‘live’ actually mean ‘live’? And - most importantly – would we get a Blue Peter badge?
With these pressing issues on our mind, our little group arrived at BBC Media City in Salford on Wednesday night, ready for an early start to appear on Newsround the following morning. We were a crack publishing team, comprising Amy Blackwell, the super-talented illustrator of Rise Up, and from Buster Books, Imogen Currell-Williams the editor and the publicist, Alice Furse. Accompanying us was the lovely Charlotte from the Book Trust, who run the Book Award in conjunction with Blue Peter.
Now, most of us have very fond childhood memories of Blue Peter. The incredibly enthusiastic presenters, the studio pets and space rockets fashioned out of washing up liquid bottles. I’m happy to say that the real thing did not disappoint. Two enthusiastic presenters, Lindsey and Richie - tick - a Blue Peter dog – tick – and we even made a quick visit to the Blue Peter Garden – massive tick. OK, we didn’t make a space rocket from household items but there’s always next time …
The next morning soon arrived and we were taken, bleary-eyed, to the tiny Newsround studio along with author Vashti Hardy, who was up for the Blue Peter storybook prize. Before we knew it, Vashti, Amy and I were whisked in for a live interview about that afternoon’s Blue Peter book award and our respective books. It was over in minutes. We returned to the hotel for breakfast and a couple of hours’ chillout time until our CBBC chaperone arrived to escort us to the big one – the Blue Peter Studio! Which, like Newsround, was surprisingly small. I can only describe the scene as being controlled chaos. A live show – with around 25 primary school children dressed as book characters and a strong-willed dog roaming around – what could go wrong?
Fortunately, we had several rehearsals before the actual show went live. And yes, it really is live! The plan was for the presenters to announce the winners of the awards in an Oscar-type ceremony with us appearing from behind doors onto a red carpet accompanied by swirls of smoke and applause. Then we would sashay our way along the catwalk to receive our trophy and answer a few questions.
Before the fun began, we paid a visit to the make-up room, where Amy and I got our eyebrows spruced up and our hair tamed by the expert hands of Dom. Soon the countdown to the live show began and we nervously took our places behind the Blue Peter swing doors of mystery to await the announcement. As we heard ‘And the winner of Best Book with Facts is … Rise Up!’ we emerged triumphantly from the doors to claim our shining glass trophy. Richie and Lindsey, dressed as the BFG and a giant blueberry, were incredibly calm and professional, managing to keep the show going, despite Henry barking, kids who’d forgotten their lines and some very fast running around the studio to get in the right position. It was all very impressive.
I even got myself a second job looking after Henry, the gorgeous but very stubborn Blue Peter beagle. As Henry seemed to like me, I was handed his leash by the owner and left in charge as the show continued. Henry of course, changed his mind about staying with me and leapt off the presenters’ sofa, while I tugged surreptitiously at his lead to try and get him back. I’m hoping no-one
Straight after the show we were directed into a live webchat with Rhys, the CBBC Book Club
presenter, in which we answered Blue Peter viewers’ questions and made up a silly story in five minutes. The minute it ended, we jumped into our waiting taxis to catch the train from Manchester back to London. The whole experience had been utterly surreal but so much fun. And - drumroll – I got a Blue Peter badge!