Up there with Winnie the Pooh, Paddington and Rupert, an iconic bright yellow bear with a polka-dotted eye bandage has been a beloved British character for more than 30 years.
Pudsey Bear – the lovable mascot for BBC’s Children in Need – has evolved into a national treasure, but the character came from humble beginnings.
The BBC’s fundraising efforts for Children in Need (which raises money for disadvantaged children and young people across the UK) date back as far as 1927, when the first ever broadcast appeal was debuted, in a five minute-long radio transmission on Christmas Day.
The initial response was positive, and £1,143 was raised – the equivalent of more than £64,000 today. This prompted regular televised appeals, which aired on 25 December every year up until 1979, with a total of £625,836 raised during this period. As the charity grew, its fundraising efforts became more ambitious. In 1980, the first Children in Need telethon was broadcast, thrusting the charity into the limelight. A re-brand was in order, as the charity’s status grew, and when the task of reinventing the logo fell to the BBC’s design department, inspiration struck in the form of a cuddly teddy bear.
THE BIRTH OF THE BEAR
In a light-bulb moment during a creative meeting in 1985, graphic designer Joanna Lane hit upon the idea that a teddy bear would be a perfect logo for the child-focused charity. Lane’s original design featured a bear with a sad face and BBC buttons down his front.
The designer felt it was important to give the new mascot a name, and looked back to her own roots to give the teddy his identity.
Named Pudsey, in honour of both Lane’s West Yorkshire hometown and her grandparents, the lovable character proved an instant hit “He proved to be very popular, and returned as the BBC Children in Need’s official logo the following year, with his design amended to that of a yellow bear with a red spotted bandage,” explains Gareth Hydes, Director of Content at BBC Children in Need. “Apart from a party hat – worn in 2004 to celebrate the telethon’s silver jubilee – Pudsey has remained very much the same over the years, but a 2007 revamp did give him a fresh new look and brighter colours in time for the 28th annual BBC Children in Need Appeal.”
37 YEARS AND COUNTING
Since hosting its first telethon in 1980, Children in Need is still going strong, and 2017 marks its 37th televised broadcast appeal. To date, an impressive £909 million has been raised by the charity, which has been used to support children and young people facing difficulties like living in poverty, being disabled or ill, or experiencing distress, neglect or trauma. Boy band Boyzone pose with Pudsey Bear for Children in Need 2007 (Photo: Getty Images) “Every year, people from every corner of the UK come together to support the charity and help to change young lives,” says Hydes. “Last year was another record-breaker, with an incredible £60 million raised.”
As well as their now famous and widely viewed telethon encouraging donations, Children in Need have come up with many creative ways to fundraise over the years. Since 1985 a charity single has been released in honour of the cause, with Craig David, Ellie Goulding, Jess Glynne, McFly, and the Spice Girls among the artists who have shown their support. This year’s single comes from Katie Melua, and will pay tribute to the late Sir Terry Wogan, with a new recording of one of the broadcaster’s favourite songs, Fields of Gold. The DIY SOS team will be descending on The Roots Foundation Wales, a charity in Swansea, this year to tackle one of their biggest challenges to date (Photo: BBC Children in Need) Special editions of TV programmes like The One Show’s Rickshaw Challenge, DIY SOS’s million-pound builds, Chris Evan’s CarFest, Countryfile Rambles, and Radio 2’s annual week of fundraising, are just a few of examples of other stand-out fundraising efforts. “Year after year, our supporters raise funds in many wonderful ways – from putting on cake sales, donning fancy dress, taking part in Zumbathons, and sleeping in trees, to donating and buying Pudsey goodies,” says Hydes. “And once again, individual fundraisers, schools and charity corporate partners are taking on incredible challenges up and down the UK to raise money for this year’s BBC Children in Need’s Appeal.”