Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures


by Elspeth

For 28 years, Pudsey has been the mascot for the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal which raises money to help disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.  The cuddly yellow bear works hard all year round encouraging both ordinary members of the public and his celebrity pals to do something different for the tremendously popular appeal night show.

Children in Need actually began on the radio in 1927 when a five minute broadcast appeal on Christmas Day raised £1,143 18s 3d which was shared with four prominent children’s charities. The first televised appeal was the ‘Children’s Hour Christmas Appeal’ in 1955, presented by Sooty and Harry Corbett.  The show continued as an hour-long Christmas broadcast until 1979, the presenters including Terry Hall, Eamonn Andrews, Leslie Crowther, Michael Aspel and Terry Wogan, the rising star of the Radio 2 Breakfast Show, who made his debut appearance in 1978.  In 1980, the appeal was broadcast on BBC One in a new telethon format, hosted by Terry Wogan, Sue Lawley and Esther Rantzen. The idea captured the public’s imagination to such an extent that donations increased dramatically, breaking the million pounds mark for the very first time.

It was, however, another five years before Pudsey made his television debut when Terry introduced viewers to a brown bear, created by Joanna Ball, a BBC graphics designer, who named him after the West Yorkshire town of Pudsey where she was born and her grandfather was Lord Mayor.  Pudsey was a huge success and, the following year, returned as the Children in Need’s official fundraiser, having metamorphed into a yellow bear with a red spotted bandage over one eye.  (I’ve tried in vain to find out the reason for the bandage so, if you know, I’d love to hear from you!)

Since then, countless cuddly Pudsey Bears and other Pudsey associated merchandise, from Pudsey ears and t-shirts to Spotty cupcakes and dustpans and brushes, have been sold at outlets throughout the country, including Asda, Boots, B&Q, Build-A-Bear, Greggs and Lakeland.  Pudsey himself receives letters, drawings and e-mails from children all over the UK and has been photographed with more celebrities than he can remember.  Apart from a party hat worn in 2004 to celebrate the telethon’s silver jubilee, Pudsey remained very much the same until 2007 when he was given a makeover – one of the most obvious changes being that the spots on his distinctive bandage changed from all red to multi-coloured.

The annual telethon in November continues to be the highlight of the charity’s year long campaign, when the whole BBC joins together to support the appeal on TV, radio and online.  During the live show we find out about some of the fundraising activities taking place around the UK and are treated to some unexpected performances from familiar faces.  The 30th BBC Children in Need Appeal raised a record £39 million which was shared amongst 2,300 charities, helping 276,000 disadvantaged children across Britain.

Everyone needs a helping paw – even Pudsey – and so, in 2009, he asked his best friend Blush, who’s caring, helpful and kind, to help him out.  As the little brown bear is quite shy, she was happy to help out behind the scenes until three years ago when the BBC decided it was time for Blush to take on a more visible role.  To celebrate the occasion, I was delighted to see that cuddly lookalikes in a variety of sizes were available to buy.

Each year, my Children in Need windows provide a welcome burst of sunshine yellow to brighten the dreary November days.  In 2009, the slogan for the fundraising campaign was ‘Do something different’ and a panda artist did just that by trying to capture a good likeness of Pudsey!  As Children in Need 2010 coincided with the launch of the first part of the final Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows, Beary Potter and his friends joined in the fun by adding some colourful spots to their normally rather sombre clothes!  In 2011, Tintin and Snowy, in a scene from The Secret of the Unicorn, one of the year’s must-see movies, showed their spots in support of Pudsey, the lovable yellow bear and, for the last two years, The Bears in the Windows have taken to the dance-floor with a Strictly Come Dancing theme. 

This year, because Remembrance Day and Prince Charles’s birthday fell in the same week, I could only devote one window to Children in Need and, for once, being a little short of inspiration, I was delighted when three pandas wearing Pudsey ears volunteered to be Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams and Barry Manilow lookalikes (well, they think they are!) in their version of the Children in Need Rocks fundraising concert which took place this week in the Hammersmith Apollo. 

 Let’s hope that, once again, the people of the United Kingdom raise lots for this most worthwhile of causes. 






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