Honorary Graduates no.1 – Biddy Baxter

Posted by mjs76 at Jan 26, 2012 03:30 PM |
Blue Peter matriarch beloved by two generations of viewers.

From 1962 to 1988, Blue Peter constantly changed and evolved: new presenters, new pets, new appeals, new projects, new expeditions. Only two things remained constant: the ‘advent crown’ made from coat-hangers and the closing credit ‘Editor: Biddy Baxter’. Many viewers had no idea what a television editor did but this enticingly alliterative name became etched in their memory.

In fact Biddy’s real name is Joan Maureen Baxter and she is a Leicester girl through and through. Born and raised in the city, she was educated at Wyggeston Girls’ Grammar School which is now Regent College, across the road from the University, opposite De Montfort Hall where Biddy will receive an Honorary Degree tomorrow.

As a child, Biddy Baxter acted on stage at Leicester’s famous Little Theatre. Graduating from Durham University in 1955, she joined the BBC as a radio studio manager and progressed to producing Listen with Mother and schools radio programmes before switching to television in 1961. The following year she joined Blue Peter, which had been on air since 1958. The presenters at the time were Christopher Trace and new girl Valerie Singleton.

Biddy made the programme much more interactive, including the introduction of the Blue Peter Badge as a reward for contributions and the annual charity appeal. In those pre-computer days, she set up a massive card index system logging all viewer correspondence so that personally written replies could acknowledge and refer to previous letters.

By the time that Biddy Baxter finally retired in 1988, the presenters were Mark Curry, Yvette Fielding and Caron Keating and the viewers were the children of those who had watched Christopher Trace. On her final show, she was awarded the programme’s highest honour, the Gold Blue Peter Badge. She then spent a further eleven years at the BBC acting as a consultant to the Director-General

Biddy Baxter was made an MBE in 1981 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Television Society in 1996. On Friday, in the 1.00pm Graduation Ceremony, she will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law in recognition of her contribution to British broadcasting.