Liam Rudden: Catching up with the Queen of Blue Peter and... a Dame

Valerie Singleton and Peter Duncan
Valerie Singleton and Peter Duncan
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DID a press trip to Tenerife once. Must be nearly 15 years ago now. The Canary Islands Tourist Board had dreamed it up as a way of showcasing the more refined character of a holiday destination better known to many as nothing more than a ‘Little Britain in the sun,’ full of British pubs, fry-up breakfasts and tat shops selling all the usual football strips.

To highlight just how much more this beautiful island had to offer, they had invited a group of writers to visit and explore the lesser known villages and historical attractions.

I was one of them. On my list of travelling companions, one name jumped out from the rest, Valerie Singleton, writing for Spain Magazine or some such.

Surely it couldn’t be ‘the’ Val Singleton, the one I had grown up with week in week out as, together with John Noakes and Peter Purves, she had gone on expeditions, made the makes, buried a time capsule, and even filmed a special assignment here in Edinburgh.

Could it really be the woman who had once been one third of the most famous Blue Peter team ever?

I called the PR in charge of the trip. She was young. Too young to have ever heard of Val.

She asked her older colleagues. I listened down the line... “Has anyone heard of Valerie Singleton? I have her down for this press trip,” she called out across the office.

The reaction was instant and positive. “Oh, she is really famous, isn’t she?” the PR gushed excitedly as she returned to the phone.

I was reunited with Val earlier this week when she popped into town to see the Fringe show Once Seen On Blue Peter, running at the Assembly Rooms until 27 August, daily at 2.50pm.

Now a glorious 81 years young, the famous twinkle was still there in her eye as we recalled that trip; a seasoned traveller, it was her first group press trip and the poor PR guiding us around stood no chance as Val quickly took charge of proceedings.

I’ll never forget the evening we spent in a little outdoor restaurant as she regaled me with tales of the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings from her time travelling with Blue Peter.

Taking to the stage with the cast of Once Seen On Blue Peter for a curtain call, it was clear Val hasn’t been forgotten... the roar from the audience being the loudest of the afternoon.

On stage beside her was another of my Blue Peter favourites, Peter Duncan (Peter Purves, Janet Ellis, Mark Curry and Tim Vincent were there too).

Peter has another show on the Fringe, a one-man drama written by his daughter Katie called The Dame.

By turns jovial, tragic and vulnerable, Peter is hypnotic to watch in this tour de force which cements his credentials as so much more than just a TV presenter.

Darkly funny in places, The Dame (playing 8pm nightly at The Dome, George Street) is a thought provoking piece of theatre and undoubtedly one of the hidden gems of the Fringe.

A must see.

@LiamRudden