Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood on going home to Blackpool and his grandma’s corned beef hash
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 July 2013
Blackpool’s Barney Harwood is a firm favourite among young viewers, now he’s looking for someone to join him in the Blue Peter studio. Paul Mackenzie went along and, no, he didn’t get the job
For anyone who wants to work in children’s television there is one job that stands head and shoulders above the rest. One job that carries the gravitas and tradition that none of the others can match. And that job is available. BBC bosses are hunting for a new presenter for Blue Peter.
The new recruit will join the current hosts of the world’s longest running children’s programme, Carlisle-born Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood who was brought up in Preesall and whose mum now runs a Blackpool hotel.
Barney was performing from an early age, appearing in hotels and cabaret bars on the resort’s seafront. ‘I genuinely enjoy Blackpool, it’s still officially home town, although I live all over the place these days I get back there whenever I can to see my mum and my grandma. In the same way that car needs to be topped up with petrol regularly, I need my grandma’s corned beef hash.’
He made his first television appearance as a four-year-old alongside his comedian father. ‘My dad would support the headline acts so I’d see him out there on stage with the stars and the bright lights and then a little while later I’d see him at home with his slippers and a cup of tea and that’s what appealed to me more. It’s one of the reasons I love Blue Peter so much, it’s such a big cosy show presented by normal people.
‘I was always a bit of a show off. I was the five-year-old who’d come bursting into the room just wearing my underpants shouting “look at me, look at me”. I still do that, but I wear a bit more.’
Barney, a former pupil at Carter’s Charity Primary School and St Aidan’s High, said. ‘I had some great teachers at primary school. I loved my time there. We were encouraged to enjoy learning and discovering.’ It was while he was at St Aidans though that he took the first steps to fame, forming a boyband which performed around Blackpool and at 17 he joined Goal managed by Nigel Martin-Smith who also looked after Take That.
Now 33, Barney is still writing songs and has been a regular in children’s entertainment for more than ten years, hosting Radio Four’s Go For It and several television shows – picking up a Bafta for best presenter along the way – before joining Blue Peter in late 2010.
The programme is now broadcast live at Thursday teatime from the BBC studios at Salford Quays and in-between rehearsals Barney added: ‘It really is the best job in the world. I really am one of the luckiest people I know. I care about Blue Peter and what it stands for. There are now grandparents who used to watch the show and its core values haven’t changed. Whenever I am stopped by people in the street they only have nice things to say about the show. We have a dedicated and passionate audience and they are brilliantly honest – if they don’t like it, they’ll tell you.
‘Everyone has their own era. I remember watching Anthea Turner wing walking, and we did that ourselves just a few weeks ago. Although some things we do are the same, it’s very different because of who we are.
‘Whoever comes in will love the job. It will be like joining a big, well-established family with me and Helen, but also Valerie Singleton and John Noakes and all the other presenters down the years. Once you’ve worked on the show you have so much respect for it and it never leaves you. I will be here for as long as I’m allowed to stay.’
The next John Noakes?
Ten potential Blue Peter presenters will be put their paces this month before CBBC viewers make the final decision. Myleene Klass, Eamonn Holmes and Ceallach Spellman will be the judges for the series, which will be hosted by children’s tv favourites Dick and Dom.
The three judges on Blue Peter – You Decide! will scrutinise the aspiring presenters as they select which of the Blue Peter hopefuls make it through each successive elimination stage.
Executive producer of Blue Peter – You Decide!, Darrell Olsen, said: ‘We’re so excited to have Eamonn, Myleene and Cel on board. They’ll be responsible for making eliminations throughout the series until there are just three of the hopeful presenters left – which is where the CBBC viewers then step in, to be our fourth judge!’
And Blue Peter producer Ewan Vinnicombe added: ‘Barney is himself and Helen is herself, that’s what makes it work. That’s what we’re looking for in the new presenter, someone who can be themselves and bring something different to the show. Children can tell if someone is faking it, and they won’t like that.’