Valerie Singleton

Valerie Singleton
Born (1937-04-09) 9 April 1937
Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England
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 but who went on to present the BBC Radio 4 PM programme for ten years as well as a series of radio and television programmes on financial and business issues.

Early life

She is the daughter of an ex-RAF Wing Commander from Hitchin, Herts, named Dennis Singleton, later an advertising manager. She was educated at Frensham Heights School in Surrey and 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. She began presenting on BBC Radio in 1963, hosting On The Sunny Side Of The Street for the Light Programme.[1] She was also a reporter on BBC2's Time Out in 1964.[2]

Blue Peter

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 as 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. At Christmas 1971, Singleton and the Blue Peter presenting team hosted the annual Disney Time on BBC1.[3]

Although she stopped presenting Blue Peter full-time in 1972 she continued making regular appearances, and was credited as a presenter until the end of 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 October 1975[4] and being featured as part of the end-of-year 'review',[5] 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.[6] However, the programme continued to repeat items featuring Singleton for many years[7] 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.[8] 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 then 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".[9]

Later work

Plaque commemorating Singleton's opening of Priory Country Park

Having co-hosted a special programme about Metrication in July 1973,[10] Singleton joined Nationwide in October 1973 as the show's "Consumer Unit" presenter with Richard Stilgoe, later becoming one of the main hosts of the show. Singleton was the co-anchor of Nationwide's royal wedding coverage in November 1973.[11] She left Nationwide in 1978 to present the BBC's late-night news programme Tonight, replacing Sue Lawley. In 1980, she was the presenter of BBC2's series A Kind Of Childhood.[12]

Singleton hosted many other programmes, notably undertaking a ten-year stint on the Monday through Friday BBC Radio 4 PM programme beginning in 1982 (having previously presented the station's Midweek with Valerie Singleton[13]) and eight years presenting BBC Two's The Money Programme from September 1980 to March 1988. While hosting PM, Singleton admitted she had a difficult relationship with co-presenter Hugh Sykes and threw a cup of water in his face while live on air.[14] When she quit PM in 1993, she presented a travel programme for ITV and is now a regular travel writer for several national publications. She made a one-off return to PM on 29 February 2016 to co-present a special 'Leap Day' programme, alongside Eddie Mair.[15][16]

In 1994 Singleton was awarded the OBE for her services to children's television. 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.[17] 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 the 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".[18] 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.[19][20] Earlier, in 1974, she had been the featured castaway on Desert Island Discs.[21]

Personal life

Singleton admitted in 2008 that she had conducted affairs with, inter alia, her co-presenter Peter Purves and the film actor Albert Finney. For a period she was also engaged to be married to the Radio 1 DJ Peter Murray, and noted "We might, for all I know, have married and been ecstatically happy. But I suspect it would not have worked. I read that he goes on holiday at the same time to the same place each year. And that wouldn't have been me." Singleton had been presenting Blue Peter for just a year when she became involved in a relationship with writer Richard Wade and fell pregnant. She said: "I knew I couldn't keep the baby. Richard had been seeing less and less of me and I've never wanted children." After an abortion, the affair with Wade petered out. [22]


  1. "ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET – Light Programme – 10 April 1963 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  2. "TIME OUT – BBC Two England – 30 April 1964 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  3. "Disney Time – BBC One London – 27 December 1971 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  4. "Blue Peter – BBC One London – 20 October 1975 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  5. "Blue Peter – BBC One London – 29 December 1975 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  6. "Blue Peter" 50th Anniversary Book: The Story of Television's Longest-running Children's Programme. Hamlyn ISBN 978-0-600-61793-8
  7. Video on YouTube
  8. "BFI page on ''Val Meets the VIPs''". Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  9. Val Meets... Margaret Thatcher, 7 March 1973 (BBC iPlayer)
  10. "Nationwide goes Metric – BBC One London – 20 July 1973 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  11. "Wedding Breakfast – BBC One London – 14 November 1973 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  12. "A Kind of Childhood – BBC Two England – 19 December 1979 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  13. "Mid-Week with Valerie Singleton – BBC Radio 4 FM – 7 May 1980 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. 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. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  15. Valerie Singleton's wedding proposal to Eddie, BBC Radio 4, 29 February 2016
  16. Val Singleton returns to the PM Programme on Radio 4, Radio Moments, 1 March 2016
  17. "de beste bron van informatie over art gallery". Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  18. "Blue Peter autobiography 'to shock'". Metro. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  19. "Valerie Singleton recalls This Is Your Life". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  20. "Valerie SINGLETON OBE (1937–)". Big Red Book. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  21. "Desert Island Discs – BBC Radio 4 FM – 27 July 1974 – BBC Genome". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  22. "Blue Peter's Valerie Singleton admits to having sex with Peter Purves". Daily Mirror. 23 June 2008.
Preceded by
Anita West
Blue Peter Presenter No. 4
1962–1972 (plus 1972–1975 part time)
Succeeded by
Lesley Judd

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