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I TALK TO Andi Peters

To celebrate 3 years of I Talk Telly I've been talking to some of my childhood heroes, the people I grew up watching on television and today it's the turn of Andi Peters.

I find out what it was like presenting Live & Kicking and whether he thinks the show would still work today, and if he would present it.

Saturday mornings growing up meant only one thing... Live & Kicking. The same way Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor define Saturday evenings now, Live & Kicking defined Saturday morning television for 8 years, starting in 1993.

The show had everything a kid could want, lots of music, celebrity guests, phone-ins, games, competitions and of course, lots of cartoons.

The original line-up of presenters were Andi Peters, Emma Forbes and John Barrowman, and Andi presented the show for three years and has remained a familiar face on television ever since.

As cliche as it might sound, I grew up watching Andi on television and everytime I see him on television I can't help but retreat into my 7 year old self and reminisce about a time when kids TV was at its absolute best.

First of all, can we quickly talk about Ed The Duck, and do you know what he's up to now?

Yes of course... He lives in Oxfordshire, in a nice country retreat and he's very happy. We haven't spoken in a while but he's very happy.

Let's talk about Live & Kicking, how important was that show for your career?

Well every show is important, but I think Live & Kicking was important because of what it did. It took me from being somebody who just did links on television essentially, as my day job, to somebody that was doing a three and a quarter hour show for 35 weeks of a year. That's a tough gig to do.

At the end of the day, when you do The Broom Cupboard, you were doing 12 million viewers a day, just before Neighbours. You go to Saturday mornings and you were going down to three or four million but the length of your show had gone up ten times.

How was it for you keeping up that energy for so many hours week in week out?

It was a really different skill set, it was a magazine show, so you could do something quite heavy, relatively so, and then have to interview Boyzone. So that was the real skill, being able to juggle the very different parts of the show. But ultimately, I'd had great experience doing children's BBC.

Who was the most interesting person you ever interviewed?

Erm... God, I'm trying to think... Richard Branson was very interesting, just because there are always so many questions you want to ask him, including - "Can you lend me a fiver?" (Laughs). Do you know, every week was different. Trevor McDonald was great when he was on, everyone! I mean I can't remember half of them because there were a lot of them, but honestly, everyone.

Who did you find the most difficult to interview?

There wasn't anyone really. I think we were lucky, because there were children around, most people would be like - "OK, we've got to be good because there are children" - and they'd make the effort, even Americans. When I was doing The O Zone, you'd run into a million people who'd just have it in for you because they were just trying to sell their record.

So they could be a bit silly, but certainly in the Live & Kicking studio, not that I can remember. I never used to do the Hot Seat. I would occasionally do the pre-interview which was often light and fluffy and Emma would do the Hot Seat, so I never had to read notes on people. My most embarrassing moment was when I fell off a stool interviewing Cher!

You mentioned Emma earlier, Emma Forbes. Did you know her before presenting Live & Kicking together?

The funny thing is, when they were casting for the show, they cast us both separately. They cast us separately and then they did one run through where they said - "Right, we've cast who we think are going to do it." We did one run through, me, Emma and John Barrowman. The three of us all started the series and we went from there.

We were just really lucky that Emma and I got on so well. We still very much keep in contact. I'm godfather to one of her children, so we speak a lot.

What was it, do you think, about Live & Kicking that made it such a widely loved programme?

Television has changed a lot in the years, because there are so many more channels. Historically, we weren't responsible for that Saturday morning television thing, there was Swap ShopGoing Live... so it was part of the British culture that you watched children's television on a Saturday morning, as a family or certainly the kids stick it on and have three or four hours of telly.

Those days have changed... so I think part of it was that it was routine, and that made it so popular, and that it was great programming. If you think about it, the show didn't really change that much in 20 years.

As you touched on there, Live & Kicking was a show kids and parents could both enjoy. Would you say the days of children's TV were adults and kids can both enjoy a programme are gone?

Yes, 100 per cent. Definitely. And certainly, you could watch it as what we call an "older child", 13/14 year-old. Those days are certainly gone, because we have so many channels, and a different channel for every age group in effect...

Even so, none of these channels have a show like Live & Kicking on there...

No, not at all. And if you think about it, these programmes aren't cheap to make. They're expensive shows that cost a lot of money for a three and a half hour show, 35 times a year.

That's an expensive show to make, and people don't want to spend that money anymore, when they can buy a cartoon that might get roughly the same number of viewers and cost a fraction of the cost.

With commercial channels, it's about making money and Persil and Dolmio will spend a lot more to advertise than other products that are aimed more towards kids. A commercial channel is there to make money so they have to do what they think will make them money.

Would Live & Kicking still work if it was around today?

I think it would. I think there is a definite appetite for it. Especially with this renaissance of nostalgia. The nostalgia at the moment is massive, and I reckon you could put Live & Kicking back on the television now and it would do really well.

Would you be interested in presenting the show again today?

In a heartbeat. If I was asked to bring back Live & Kicking again, I would do it in a heartbeat. It's one of the best shows on television.

What's your fondest memory from your time on Live & Kicking?

Well not including the day I left, when I cried my eyes out, my fondest memory would be family. Which again, you don't get that much of on television anymore. The BBC had one crew, it would be exactly the same people week in week out so we became a family.

Are you surprise by how fondly the show is still remembered today?

Live & Kicking had a big impact on my life because it was my first big live show and what is only really becoming evident now is the impact on other people's lives. As I grow up and watch people who say - "I watched you every Saturday" - because they're older, and I never how much of an impact this show had on people's lives. No idea. The phrase I hear the most, is - "I grew up watching you." - which makes me feel really old!

We have to talk about the iconic opening titles, for me I will always remember BBC Television Centre as the building that was in the opening titles of Live & Kicking. How sad are you that TV centre has gone?

Well, seeing it on Blue Peter, seeing it in the background, we would all use it. We would always use the building where possible as a symbol of this is TV centre. It was a historic building that created historic television. The took the BBC down the other week, the actual letters.

Now there's a shopping centre opposite, and everytime I go to Westfield, I just think, I spent 12 years of my life coming here every day of the week... when there wasn't a Westfield, when it was just a car park. It's sad that it's gone.

A lot of presenters, such as yourself have started out on children's television. Do you think it's a good training ground for presenters?

I think it was. I think any television where you are on television a lot... the more you do it, the more you're good at it. And so to be a good presenter you have to do it over and over again, and every day. The more you do it, the better you become at it. For me that's the key.

That's why children's TV was a really good training ground. I think now, a great training ground is shopping TV. Because you just have to go on and work and keep going until you've done what you needed to do. That means you don't become shy about being on camera, you get to know some tricks. You work at it.

Were there any other TV shows around the time of Live & Kicking that you wish you had presented?

No. None whatsoever. I was offered presenting Blue Peter, before I was offered Live & Kicking, and I said no to Blue Peter in the hope that I would get Live & Kicking if I did. I thought, I need to be available in case Saturday mornings come up... and it did!


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