Many Thanks to Carolyn Paton for this report from the February 2020 meeting of the Curry Rivel WI.
February's WI meeting saw the arrival as speaker of Alex Leger who worked on that iconic BBC programme, Blue Peter, for 40 years. His adventures 'behind the lens' were both interesting and entertaining, as even the oldest of WI members could remember viewing the programme with their children, and many grew up with it themselves before watching with their own offspring.
His natural interest in action films was piqued at university, and sometime after acquiring a degree in industrial engineering, he obtained a job at the BBC, training as an assistant producer for Blue Peter, and was able to be involved in outside broadcasts as well as studio transmissions.
Blue Peter, begun in 1958, was a hugely influential programme with 5-9 million viewers at its peak, and played a part in lots of families' lives. That signature tune conjures all sorts of memories for many of us.
The overall producer, Biddy Baxter, encouraged the taking of 'manageable risks', some of which would be considered as being beyond the pale today, with their lack of official risk assessment, protective clothing etc. It all made for exciting viewing, not to mention sometimes hair-raising filming, and opened up new worlds for the enthralled watchers.
During Alex's time on the programme, technological progress brought new lightweight cameras, capable of extended filming, enabling much more cost-effective production. He travelled to all sorts of locations, bringing far-flung places and events to life — which was part of its mission to the nation's children. Blue Peter has always tried to lead its viewers on a voyage of discovery, and that is the thinking behind the boat illustration (designed by Tony Hart, another well-known and loved name) on the treasured Blue Peter badge, worn with pride by its holders.
It was clear from Alex's talk that he has enjoyed enormously his long years on the programme, in spite of the all, the professional stresses that come with the management of technical information and studio direction. The mix of location filming and studio work was one that exercised his talents, as well as sometimes being a roller-coaster ride, and it was clear that it gave him a lot of satisfaction.
The good work continues today on CBBC, where the programme continues to evolve and adapt to current culture.
Members of the WI felt they had been accorded a glimpse of a professional world of which few had much knowledge. Thank you Alex Leger.
As usual, any information about the WI can be had from its President, Anne Geach firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Curry Rivel W.I. was started in 1922 and has been thriving since then. We meet on the second Thursday of the month (except August) at 10.00am in the Village Hall. We have garden visits, pub lunches, a regular monthly walk, visits to local places of interest, skittles matches and other activities. We also help the local school by hearing readers as well as making Story Sacks to illustrate their favourite story books. Our Institute is part of the Somerset Federation and we also have close links with a number of other Institutes in the area. Members support a wide variety of events organised by both the county and other local WIs. Every member is also part of the National Federation of WIs, based in London, which campaigns on a wide range of topics on our behalf. Each month, members receive a free copy of the County News and eight times a year a copy of WI Life, produced by the National Federation, delivered by post.