Edward Barnes, who died at the age of 92, was one of the big names in children’s programs on British television; a pioneering producer on Blue Peter, he has done a lot to define the style and distinctive content of the legendary program.
First becoming the deputy and then the head of children’s programs at the BBC, he has designed, nurtured and guided a whole series of programs that are fondly remembered that will help to inform, influence and shape the memories of generations of viewers. Among them was Newsround, the world’s first regular news service for children; Multi-Colored Swap Shop, the launch pad for decades of Saturday morning television and, later, the inspiration for Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast.
There were also entertainment shows like Record Breakers, which jump-started Roy Castle’s career; and a host of popular dramas, including the magical hit The Box of Delights. It has made the stars of some of television’s most beloved presenters and actors, including John Noakes, John Craven, Sarah Greene, Keith Chegwin, Todd Carty and Phillip Schofield.
Barnes’ background and education was unusual for a BBC man of his day. Unlike his generally public school and his patrician contemporaries, he was originally from Wigan, where he was born Herbert Edward Campbell Barnes on October 8, 1928. He left school at age 14 to become an office worker at the Miners’ Permanent Relief Society. It only lasted three weeks.
He tried several other professions, but his real dream was to become an actor. National service stepped in, and in 1947 he was sent to Vienna, where he became an announcer for the British Forces Network Radio. It was there that he met his future wife, historian and writer Dorothy Smith, whom he married in 1950.