Valerie Singleton

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Valerie Singleton
OBE
Born (1937-04-09) 9 April 1937 (age 77)
Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Years active 1959 – present

Valerie Singleton OBE (born 9 April 1937) is an English television and radio presenter, best known as a presenter of the popular children's series, Blue Peter.

Early life[edit]

She was educated at the independent Arts Educational School, Tring Park in Hertfordshire. Singleton wanted to be a dancer and for two years attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). She won a scholarship for her first term and began her career as an actress at the New Theatre in Bromley. In 1959, she starred in the sitcom The Adventures of Brigadier Wellington-Bull.

Blue Peter[edit]

She joined the BBC in 1961 as a continuity announcer and in 1962 joined Blue Peter, where she stayed until 1972. She then continued until 1975 in a part-time role as a 'roving reporter'. Along with John Noakes, she continues to be more closely associated with Blue Peter than any other former presenter. (Singleton was for a long time credited for being the third presenter, but the disclosure in 1998 of Anita West as her predecessor meant she slipped down to fourth.)

During her time on Blue Peter, Singleton accompanied Princess Anne on her first solo trip overseas in a Kenyan Royal Safari in 1971. In 1998, the two women met to reminisce about the Royal safari for one of Blue Peter's fortieth anniversary programmes.

Although she stopped presenting Blue Peter full-time in 1972 she continued making regular appearances, and was credited as a presenter, through to 1975. The documentary on the Royal Safari led to a spin-off series, Blue Peter Special Assignment in which Singleton was solo presenter. It was shown at weekends and ran from 1973–81. Each edition focussed initially on European capital cities, but later covered islands and well-known historic figures.

After making the last of her 'in studio' appearances on Blue Peter in the spring of 1975, Singleton returned in January 1976 to mark the death of the first Blue Peter cat, Jason. Just a few weeks later, producer Edward Barnes wrote to tell her that as she was no longer associated with the show in any genuine sense, they were replacing her as the presenter of the Special Assignment series. Her fees were also deemed a factor in their decision.[1] However, the programme continued to repeat items featuring Singleton for many years[2] and she returned for a final series of the Special Assignment spin off in 1981 reporting on the Yukon and Niagara Rivers. For both the 20th & 25th Anniversary editions of Blue Peter, Singleton moderated the live link-ups from around the British nation to launch the anniversary badge balloon hunts. She presented the "Outstanding Endeavour" award to its young recipient on the programme's 30th anniversary edition. Richard Marson states in his Blue Peter 50th Anniversary book that "Singleton never really left Blue Peter".

During her time on Blue Peter, Singleton also presented another BBC children's show, Val Meets The VIPS, a chatshow which ran for three series during 1973–74.[3] Each edition featured an interview with a single public figure to which an audience of children were invited to put across their questions. A guest in March 1973 was the Secretary of State for Education, Margaret Thatcher, who when asked if she would like to be Prime Minister said that she did not have enough experience, nor would there be a "woman Prime Minister in my lifetime".[4]

Later work[edit]

Plaque commemorating Singleton's opening of Priory Country Park

In October 1973, Singleton joined Nationwide as the show's "Consumer Unit" presenter with Richard Stilgoe, later becoming one of the main hosts of the show. She left in 1978 to present the BBC's late night news programme Tonight, replacing Sue Lawley. She hosted many other programmes, notably a ten-year stint on Radio 4's PM and BBC Two's The Money Programme. During her period on PM she made headlines when she threw a glass of water in the face of her co-presenter, Hugh Sykes while on air.[5] When she quit Radio 4's PM in 1993, she presented a travel programme for ITV and is now a regular travel writer for several national publications. She also appeared as herself in the BBC TV comedy series Citizen Smith.

Singleton was awarded the OBE for her services to children's television, in 1994. She still makes occasional guest appearances on Blue Peter.

In the 1990s she presented a popular quiz on Channel 4Backdate. She was an early enthusiast and patron of the painter Jack Vettriano.[6] In 2006, Singleton made a series of tongue-in-cheek 'makes' in the style of Blue Peter for VintageLadyBird to coincide with the release of the Ladybird Book for Boys And Girls, Things To Make & Do With Valerie Singleton.[7] In 2005, the story of Singleton's move from London to Dorset and the sale of the flat she had lived in for more than forty years was reported in The Times. According to Metro Newspaper in 2007, Singleton intended to publish her biography in time for Blue Peter's fiftieth anniversary in October 2008. According to the article, the book would reveal "a few things that will shock".[8] The book is yet to be published.

She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2001 when she was surprised by Michael Aspel.

Singleton was seen on BBC Television for much of 2009 fronting a campaign of Infomercials to promote the BBC's iPlayer.

Personal life[edit]

In a candid interview for the Daily Mail in June 2008, Singleton discussed several issues about her personal life and previous relationships.[9] She firmly dismissed rumours that had persisted for 30 years that she was a lesbian, which had started after she interviewed rock musician Joan Armatrading in 1978, and had probably dissuaded men from approaching her. Singleton also revealed several relationships and affairs with a number of men including actor Albert Finney and fellow presenter Peter Purves.

She disclosed that she had had an abortion in 1963 after a brief affair with Richard Wade, a BBC staff writer, after fears that the pregnancy would be detrimental to her career. A long-term relationship with Daily Express journalist Philip Geddes ended in 1983 when he died in the IRA bomb attack on Harrods in London.

Singleton said that many of the men in her life had been younger, including her last boyfriend, a builder who was 24 years her junior. Although Singleton had been engaged in 1967 to radio DJ Pete Murray, the couple drifted apart and Singleton never married. She now lives alone in Dorset.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Blue Peter" 50th Anniversary Book: The Story of Television's Longest-running Children's Programme. Hamlyn ISBN 978-0-600-61793-8
  2. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TI8A5gA_Po
  3. ^ "BFI page on ''Val Meets the VIPs''". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  4. ^ Val Meets... Margaret Thatcher, 7 March 1973 (BBC iPlayer)
  5. ^ Singleton, Valerie (28 June 2008). "My holiday with Princess Anne and how I had a nose job to look like Audrey Hepburn by Valerie Singleton". Daily Mail (London). 
  6. ^ "de beste bron van informatie over art gallery". Everardread.co.za. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "Things to Make and Do with Valerie Singleton (Ladybird Books)". YouTube. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Blue Peter autobiography 'to shock' | Metro.co.uk". Metro.co.uk. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  9. ^ Valerie Singleton (22 June 2008). "The truth about all those men in my life and those lesbian rumours". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Anita West
Blue Peter Presenter No. 4
1962–1972 (plus 1972–1975 part time)
Succeeded by
Lesley Judd