My first day as a Blue Peter presenter

Barney Harwood, Steve Backshall and a frog Being a Blue Peter presenter means facing your fears - like frogs

The presenters of children's magazine programme Blue Peter loom large in the memories of many people, so joining the show can be a daunting prospect, says new recruit Barney Harwood.

Walking into the studio as a presenter for the first time on Monday morning was pretty awe-inspiring. I couldn't really take it in.

I've been on Blue Peter a lot over the years as a guest, but it still felt like I was about to do my chat and leave. It will take a while to realise that this is now my on-screen home, along with fellow presenters Helen Skelton and Andy Akinwolere.

All around you, there are the Blue Peter logos, and the pets, and the whole studio team watching you intently. There are a lot of high expectations facing you. And of course, big shoes to fill.

Even in the production office where I sit, I'm surrounded by pictures of all the past presenters. There have been some great ones over the years. Matt Baker, Caron Keating, Anthea Turner, Liz Barker, Simon Thomas. And of course everybody likes John Noakes.

Frog fear

But, despite the pressure, I actually managed to enjoy myself on my first show. To make my "big entrance", I got to ride the ultimate motorbike into the studio, with fireworks and strobe lights all around. I love superbikes, so it was a bit of a dream come true for me.

But Blue Peter gives, and it also takes away. In the second half of the show, I had to do something which rarely escapes Blue Peter presenters nowadays: face my fears.

Barney and Blue Peter dog Barney Blue Peter also has a dog called Barney

The production team had discovered that I can't bear frogs, so they arranged for CBBC wildlife expert Steve Backshall to bring in three of the most dangerous frogs in the world. I had to see if I could hold them, and I was sweating even before Steve got the first frog out of the box.

I really don't like them - it's something about the way they jump - but I forced myself to trust Steve, and hold them. Even the one that was the size of a small cat. But that's Blue Peter. You have to show the kids watching that you're prepared to take on things, to have a go.

The essence of this job is a sense of realism, of taking children on a journey. They write in and challenge us. And we definitely try to do those things for them. We try to live out their dreams for them, show them what's possible in their lives to come.

On other shows I've been playing a character. But this is a show where I can be myself, and I'm really looking forward to that.

I know they're going to push my comfort zone. I'm genuinely going to be scared of bungee jumping or skydiving. But it's all going to be on camera, and that's what matters.

Being a children's TV presenter is for anybody who enjoys entertainment. It's all about telling a story. I love telling stories; I even tell stories to myself in the car.

Now I'm on Blue Peter, I know that the level of media interest might go up. But it isn't something that concerns me. As I'm sure my predecessors would tell you, it's just another part of the territory.

Send us your memories of favourite Blue Peter presenters from the past.

I remember John Noakes joining and how I enjoyed his informality. Coming from the north of England it was great to hear a non-southern accent on the telly. It may be the case that everyone likes him now but I recall some pretty negative feedback at the time, presumably from southern parents worrying that their kids were going to start spouting northern vowels. The sheer sense of involvement that radiated from Blue Peter in the 60s and early 70s was amazing.

David Blake, London

Simon Groom and his lovely pair of knockers... on a door!

Ian Cummins, Romford, UK

Surely nothing can top the golden period of Blue Peter when Val, John and Peter were keeping us glued to our television sets. The baby elephant in the studio with John Noakes is a never to be forgotten moment!

Steve Browne, Stalybridge, England

I was hitchhiking on the A30 in the late 60's when a guy in a green mini-van pulled over and gave me a lift to London. Apparently he'd just done a stint with some firefighters in South Wales. He chatted away en route and it gradually dawned on me that he was John Noakes, complete with Patch the dog in the back of the van. As I didn't watch the show he was not instantly recognisable, but he was a thoroughly nice chap.

David, Henley on Thames

Matt Baker will always be my favourite Blue Peter Presenter. I can still remember him in the show's special drama called the Quest where he had to dress up in a loin cloth and do acrobatics (in the style of Indiana Jones) to steal an item on display. Also when he had to do the Potential Royal Marines Course. I liked his down to earth presentational skills coupled with those twinkling eyes.

Holly, Bath

My favourite one is of Matt Baker and Simon Thomas in the famous lederhosen episode, when they can't stop laughing because they are dressed up in the costumes for the whole episode. Even at the end of the episode they can't open the door to let the dragoon guards in to the studio and start laughign again. Its brilliant.

Lorna, York, UK

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