Peter’s involvement with Sport.
If dog Agility, Flyball and Heelwork to Music could be classified as Sport (which it certainly is) then Sport is ongoing in my life. I have taken part in Agility demos and Flyball practice many times over the past 40 years since I first introduced Agility to the TV audience at Crufts Dog Show in 1978.
But on a more serious note, in the late ’70’s and early 80’s, I was the lead Presenter in five series of the Children’s Sport programme on the BBC, Stopwatch, where amongst my co-presenters were the great Daley Thompson, Suzanne Dando and Nigel Starmer- Smith. My only regret during that time was that, although we could interview some of the greats of the game of Football, (Dalgliesh, Souness, Brooking, Emlyn Hughes etc., we were restricted to virtually no pictures of the top professional game at all. But apart from that it was a privilege to get involved with the top sports stars of the era in so many other different Sports..
In 1979 i was invited by Nick Hunter, then head of BBC sport in the North, to be the host/ compère of the Darts World Championship, which had been tried out on TV the previous year with David Coleman in charge. David wasn’t interested in continuing after that launch, and as it was known in the BBC club that I could play darts pretty well myself, I was asked to pick up the traces. With commentators Tony Green and the legendary Sid Waddell, we three became the voices of darts for the next eight years or so. This was the
time of the early greats of the game, the late great Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Leighton Rees, Alan Evans, Jocky Wilson, and Bobby George. During that time, Darts became established as a mainstream Sport, and the viewing figures were huge. It spawned a knockout competition called Bullseye (not the one with the late Jim Bowen), and expanded with the British Championship and the 4 nations tournament which was a team event involving the four home countries. I completed almost 400 TV programmes covering these incredibly popular events.
Kickstart was the first and most popular of the Motorcycle Trials shows on TV. Audiences were astonished to see riders manoeuvring their bikes over obstacles like a VW Beetle!! Very soon that skill, became regarded as passé, and with the continental riders showing off their indoor Arena Skills (Arena events being something that the UK didn’t have at that time) the sport developed using some truly awesome obstacles. One in particular I remember had a JCB with front and rear arms fully extended, lifting the body of the JCB off the ground, and rising to something like 15ft (5 metres) at the top. It was Fearsome and requiring great skill to cross over it. In spite of its danger, no one fell and no one got even a scratch.
Junior Kickstart was spawned by the adult show (which had become too expensive for the promoter, Nick Brittan, to continue with it) and soon we were seeing youngsters up to the age of fourteen competing over similarly difficult courses. One favourite obstacle was “Zebedee”, a sprung plank named after the character in the Magic Roundabout. If the rider hit it wrong, they were unceremoniously sprung off the side of it. Junior Kickstart saw the emergence of six-time World Arena Trials Champion, Dougie Lampkin, whose Uncle, John Lampkin, was a former World trials Champion. Dougie never actually won Junior Kickstart – that honour going to Steven Colley and Graham Jarvis, who both went on to be in the World top half dozen. My co-commentators over the 13 series from1979 to 1991, were legends of the sport – Former World Trials Champions, Mick Andrews, John Lampkin and latterly the man from Florida, Jack Stites. Great guys all. I was asked to be the programme Presenter because i had successfully taken the Royal Signals White Helmets obstacle course at Catterick Camp during my time on Blue Peter. I am very proud of my honorary White Helmet, and was sad when the Display Team was disbanded a few years ago. They were a legendary team of riders, and i thoroughly enjoyed my few days training with them.
Driver of the Year was a wonderful show in which to be involved between 1979 and 1981. I was the presenter, together with commentators for two shows Dave Lee Travis and then Noel Edmunds. The show only ran for three series, being too expensive for the BBC, and before the days of mass sponsorship. The event was a regional competition to find the best driver in Britain. The competitors had to drive a variety of vehicles from Double-decker Buses, Fork-Lift Trucks, Karts, Articulated Lorries, Saloon Cars towing
caravans, Rally Cars and racing Minis. A severe test for anyone and was one of the most exciting programmes on which I have ever worked. I was sad to see it go.
The Granada Men and Motors Channel tried unsuccessfully to revive and recreate the success of Junior Kickstart in the early Noughties. The show was called Teen trials, and i presented it , together with Gladiator and keen biker, Jane Ogorogbe. It was a good attempt, but never really got the atmosphere or the degree of difficulty right.
I would have loved to be involved with the Golf. I rarely have the time tom play these days, but i loved the game, and eventually got my handicap down to 17. I dread to think where it would be now. But I have been lucky enough in the past to play at some excellent Charity events, most notably on the wonderful West Course at Wentworth on four occasions.
Like so many of my friends, I have supported Tottenham Hotspur for more years than I care to remember. I saw my first game at the old White Hart Lane ground in 1959, and although, as a Blackpool lad, I should have kept that allegiance, I was mesmerised by the beautiful football played by that team that was about to become great under Bill Nicholson, when it won the double of the FA Cup and First division title in 1961. I used to go regularly to see home matches and occasional away games, and all the London derbies, and have watched them nearly win a lot of things but have always just disappointed. I will persevere – the team, as I write in 2018, is as good a team to watch as any I have ever seen. But have we won anything? Sadly Not yet!