With the London Marathon coming up on 3rd October, we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with former Blue Peter presenter and theatre actor Peter Duncan. This year he has chosen to raise money for the Clothing Collective.
As I spoke to Peter, he had just finished collecting the apples with a 15ft pole from a tree he had been contemplating harvesting for thirty years. It was immediately obvious that Peter was a man who had a flair for humour and supporting charities where he could. His apples were off to the Apple Collective in Wandsworth.
Peter has undertaken a variety of activities for charity since his time at Blue Peter. He tells me that this is because charities that can associate themselves with someone with his background can achieve a greater social media following. This will hopefully lead to more sponsorship and donations. If nothing else, it allows him to bring awareness to causes that may not always get the attention they deserve.
Having completed the marathon every decade, he has now chosen the Clothing Collective to run 25 miles for!
But why the Clothing Collective?
“I’ve always been conscious working in the West End of lots of people on the streets sleeping rough. I thought there’s a little bit of dignity about going somewhere with a voucher and choosing the clothes you want to wear. I thought that was a good idea. We behave pretty appallingly to our street folk”.
“Always a bit of a dilemma with street folk, is it a scam? Sometimes people pretend to be on the street, and they're not - to play on people's sympathy. So it’s nice this is an organised way of supporting people. A voucher is a positive thing.”
Peter has been very busy recently with filming his new online pantomime. Updating me on his training for this run, he told me that he feels a bit nervous.
“Because I’ve been working so hard, my training has been a bit poor. I’m attempting to run around Richmond Park twice tomorrow, which is about 15 miles. That will be the longest run before the marathon, so I’m a bit anxious.”
Having run the first four marathons, Peter is apprehensive yet eager to get around this time. Even though it will be the final time he runs the lengthy distance, he hopes that durability will see him to the finish line.
When Peter ran the first marathon, back in the 1980s, he was a presenter on Blue Peter. With a high following and the support of the nation, he was unable to run 10 yards without seeing a sign spurring him on. This time, Peter feels that there are so many people running, and his marathon fame has somewhat diminished, so he will be less supported than previously. Although this will make it harder for him to stay motivated, Peter knows that the cause is worth it.
“To be honest, there are so many people that run it now the older ones get forgotten.”
Do not fear though Peter, we will be cheering for you.
Peter has never been one to give up, and we do not doubt that he will make it. From completing the Royal Navy Endurance Course to being awarded the Blue Peter Gold badge in 2007, he was also made Chief Scout in 2004. In 2015 Peter established The National Adventure Company and is now focussing on his online panto filming, which was a huge success last year. Once being the star of Duncan Dares - a TV show that saw him completing daring acts like walking on tightropes, there are two very different sides to this man. Or so I thought.
“The Daring Duncan days have always been somewhat part of my nature. The creative person… all kind of ties in really. Creatively daring and physically daring.”
I thought these were two very different personalities. However, Peter filled me in on how wrong I was.
“Pantomimes are hugely risky financial ventures because traditionally, people go to the theatre to see pantomimes. They certainly couldn’t do that last year. I suspect some might not do it this year because people are fearful, despite what people say about it being safe or not. Too many people have been ill and don’t want to take their chances with really. Some people will be cautious while some will be gung-ho.”
The majority of Peter's time has been filled with filming this new online pantomime where he will be playing the part of Billie - Cinderella’s step-sister. He describes these performances as being not only the highlight of his career - but also the last few years of fame.
“I see it as being the last couple of years really. Certainly, because I’ve made documentaries and other films before but never quite on this scale. Yes, it is wonderfully creative to write songs and to write stories and to cast it, and they’re something of an interesting job if you like.”
“It feels like a new genre. You can make films well and people can react and shout and scream and be part of what I would say is an interactive experience in the cinema. We saw it work so well last year and lots of focus groups saying would you do it again and us saying well, yes, we would. I don’t know if that’s because they liked it so much or just being polite, but we made it anyway."
Due in schools early December and then hopefully cinemas again like it was last time, it will be available online, in schools, care homes, scouts and guides.
“It’s a lot easier as pretty much anybody can stream stuff now if you’re willing to pay for it. It’s a slightly new culture. I don’t think people are going to stop going to the cinema and theatres because they’re getting a special unique experience. Sitting at home with your big widescreen TV, you just miss a little bit of interaction with others. With this product, you’re sitting with people who are reacting with them. It's more to do with the interaction really.”
“I think doing big musicals was another highlight. They are quite enjoyable as well. Being part of a big musical, singing and dancing making people laugh, that’s a thrill too.”
Peter is excited about the content and the story of his new pantomime, which he says no one but he and the cameraman has seen to date.
Going from filming Cinderella to running a marathon may appear to be a drastic change of persona, but as Peter said, everything he does is a risk in one way or another. The clothing Collective wishes him luck that this risk leads to a successful outcome.
Good Luck Peter!