Skip to content

A History of Children in Need

It is one of the biggest charity events of the year. It’s hard to believe that in its modern format it has been going since 1980. Children in Need is a global brand today, raising money and awareness for children’s charities across the UK and the world. Great Ormond Street hospital often features quite heavily, and the charity has been vital for this service. But what do you know about this autumnal celebrity-fest of comedy, fund-raising and heart-wrenching stories that uses a teddy bear with a bandage over his eye as its symbol?

From Humble Beginnings

Although Children in Need as we know it began in 1980, in truth its history goes back much earlier than this. In 1927, BBC radio on Christmas Day broadcast an appeal for charitable donations. The money raised (£1,143 or around £28,000 by today’s money) was split between four children’s charities. This radio broadcast carried on every year until it made its way to television in 1955. The first TV show also took place on Christmas Day, called Children’s Hour Christmas Appeal. There was no sign of Pudsey at this stage. However, it did have one recognisable character featuring as its mascot – the timeless Sooty along with then guardian Harry Corbett.

When Children in Need proper began in 1980, it broadcast on Christmas Day but it was little more than a Telethon with segments between each of the regular programmes. Children in Need then had three hosts: Terry Wogan, Sue Lawley and Esther Rantzen. This carried on for four years until the BBC scrapped the old format and introduced the single show that we still see today. Terry Wogan hosted the show until 2014 when he stepped down due to ill health. He sadly passed away in early 2016.

A BBC Showcase in Charity Format

Mixing information on charities and causes with entertainment, the Children in Need annual event now follows what we come to expect from a television charitable event. Comic Relief (which began in 1985) is another to follow this popular format. Most recently, the Text Santa show on ITV repeats what remains a successful style. We could argue that Children In Need is what started it all.

Today, it is a showcase for upcoming British talent and big names. It may sound cynical, but charity is often a good way for acts to be noticed – particularly music and acting talent. It is not just about raising charity money, it serves (in a way) as a vehicle for BBC’s programming and services at the same time. Since the return of Doctor Who in 2005, the trailer for the upcoming Christmas special is often first broadcast on Children in Need.

All About Pudsey & Blush

If Children in Need is the country’s most famous charity, then the same can be said for its official mascot – Pudsey Bear. He is instantly recognisable. A yellow bear, he looks remarkably similar to the original mascot (Sooty). He made his debut at Children In Need in 1985, replacing a simple graphic of a group of children with the words “Children in Need”.

  • Pudsey is named after a the town in West Yorkshire where the designer’s (Joanna Lane) grandfather was once mayor
  • The town of Pudsey has a monument to Pudsey Bear in the form of shrubs
  • There have been three logos so far. The first had a red bandage. The second, used from 1986 to 2006 had a white bandana with red spots. The third designed introduced in 2007 saw Pudsey lose his buttons and replace his old red and white bandage with a white one with multi-coloured dots

“Blush” is a recent addition to the Children in Need family. The brown-furred, female bear has a bow in her hair with a similar spotty pattern to the bandage that Pudsey sports. She was added, according to the BBC, to aid Pudsey Bear in some of his official duties.