The day ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan could have drowned in Lowestoft harbour

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan recalls getting into bother in Lowestoft harbour. Photo: Alasta

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan recalls getting into bother in Lowestoft harbour. Photo: Alastair Muir - Credit: Alastair Muir

Peter Duncan hopes his latest visit to the region goes better than the time he could’ve drowned in Lowestoft harbour.

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan recalls getting into bother in Lowestoft harbour. Photo: Alasta

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan recalls getting into bother in Lowestoft harbour. Photo: Alastair Muir - Credit: Alastair Muir

It was supposed to be a safety exercise: what to do should Peter’s hang-glider crash during his cross-Channel attempt. Things didn’t go to plan.

“It was during Duncan Dares (essential viewing for boys, including me, in the 1980s). I jumped off the wall into the water, floated a bit and then I was supposed to be rescued by a boat. It didn’t work very well because it ran over the top of the hang-glider,” laughs the actor and presenter.

“Being attached to something was more of the problem. I think it was supposed to lift up at the front so I could detach and breathe, but... I was momentarily trapped for what felt like a year. I can’t remember how long I was in the water – probably not that long – but I knew it had gone pear-shaped. I have a distinct memory of all (my) life-threatening moments. I was fine really.”

It’s not the only memory the ex-Blue Peter presenter has of my hometown, Lowestoft.

He recalls visiting it when he was six years old, in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Peter and his sister often toured with their parents, who staged old-time musical shows.

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It didn’t go too well, either. “No; it was a very unsuccessful season, I seem to remember. People just didn’t come. They did cockney songs, war songs, deep south, an Alabama-type minstrel show... What they call a jukebox musical now.

“It was a bit like Million Dollar Quartet because it’s musical interludes about a bygone age. Only I hope to be very successful,” laughs Peter, taking over the lead role of Sun Records owner Sam Phillips from Jason Donovan for a few weeks.

Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp, who will star in Million Dollar Quartet when it comes to the Ipswich R

Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp, who will star in Million Dollar Quartet when it comes to the Ipswich Regent in November. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The show is playing Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre until April 8.

On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins jammed together in Sun Records Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

The show includes more than 20 all-time rock ’n’ roll classics, like Real Wild Child, Hound Dog, Walk the Line, Matchbox, Folsom Prison Blues and Blue Suede Shoes. “I think most people come for the songs and get constantly interrupted by me,” laughs Peter, who feels people have fallen out of love with seeing plays unless they live in big cities. Jukebox musicals like Million Dollar Quartet represent that bit of storytelling with the atmosphere of a gig.

Despite a career spanning four decades, his passion for performing hasn’t waned, as anybody who saw him in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Ipswich Regent will confirm.

“I remember the Ipswich show was very funny. We had seven dwarves that had never been on stage before. It was very entertaining. Wonderful chaos.”

Peter admits always going off to try new projects but he keeps returning to the stage. Inevitable perhaps given his parents were entertainers.

“Not really, that’s that what they did. I was very much not particularly interested. I got distracted by many different kinds of adventures. I didn’t resist it, I just grew into it really bit by bit. I started work when I was 15, it sounds like I was child actor but a child actor is much younger... I didn’t really get going until I’d spent a couple of years at the Old Vic and thought ‘this is the thing I want to do’.”

Touring satisfies his wanderlust.

“I don’t find it particularly stressful... We (Peter and his family) all went off and did these TV series which I produced which has taken my kids all around the world. We went off for six months, then we went to China for three or four months, India for three months... filming the world through their eyes.”

Peter’s passed the entertainment bug on to his children.

“They didn’t become actors, they dabbled a bit, they’re mainly into music. My eldest is a singer in Glasgow, trying to make her way. My other two daughters play in a band and one of them’s a playwright, she’s had a script sort of gone into development. My son’s working his way through his creative field; not quite sure what it is yet, probably cooking.”

• Million Dollar Quartet plays Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre until April 8. It also visits the Ipswich Regent from November 20-25 starring Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet and, more recently, BBC TV’s Let It Shine. Tickets for the Ipswich run go on sale from 10am Friday.

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