PETER Duncan says his proudest achievement in life has been producing, writing and appearing in pantos at Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts.

That's quite a statement from an actor who started out in the 1970s and has been brave enough to complete numerous daredevil stunts in his time on Blue Peter and Duncan Dares.

The former TV presenter has been producing pantomimes for 20 years and this year plays a pantomime dame for the first time.

Peter, 65, dons fabulous frocks and outrageous wigs in his role as Dame Trott in Lighthouse's Jack and the Beanstalk.

I'm asked to give him a call just after a morning performance for schools. I miss him first time around but the chirpy actor is soon on the phone to me, with all the hubbub of the theatre in the background.

I hear him say 'hello, sweetie' and he's busily waving to a little girl while being handed a much deserved cup of coffee.

Is there a lot of excitement in the audience this close to Christmas? I ask Peter.

"I think these were excited, they were a rambunctious bunch!" he says.

Peter, who did two stints hosting Blue Peter in the 80s, says he's really enjoying playing a pantomime dame for the first time.

"It was one of the things I never thought I would do. I thought I was too young for it. It's a mixture of many different elements of acting.

"I would say that Dame Trott is one of the best pantomime dames out there. A lot happens to her in it, there's a fair bit of narrative going on."

A lot has been written about this year's Poole pantomime, with tabloid newspapers asking 'Is this Britain's most politically correct panto?' The panto features a climate change-denying giant and a Greta Thunberg character.

Peter said: "I think the tabloids make stuff up. And I think those articles about it being the most PC panto were a bit of a stitch up.

"With Greta and the gang in the panto it's about their story. It's the story of the year. This one is beginning with young people. It's quite exciting."

There's a lot of talent in this year's panto, Pete says, and he has previously worked with some of the cast.

"I did a show a few years ago called Tumble and both Amelle Berrabah from the Sugababes and I were competing in it. What I've learnt through the panto is that she's a fantastic singer. I'm sure she should be a solo artist, she's so good. I've worked with the director before, but not with Connor Byrne or the young actor Alex Lodge.

"There's a lot of singing in the show, I think more than in any panto I've done over the years."

I ask Peter if he's often stopped by people and asked about Blue Peter and he says it does happen quite a lot - especially with people of a certain generation.

A clip from a Blue Peter episode in which he was filmed singing to Elton John was rumoured to have made the final edit of a Christmas compilation celebrating the children's TV show.

"I know there are four or five presenters in there in clips of Christmas shows over the years. I'm not sure if me singing to Elton John will make the final cut," he said.

"I think they might show a clip of me with Simon Groom and Sarah Greene performing in a Christmas panto version of Cinderella!"

Simon isn't surprised that his association with Blue Peter has endured.

He said: "I enjoyed my time there so much. Being part journalist, part presenter it was always very close to acting. sometimes you're not always presenting and you're being yourself in front of the camera."

"Even though it was four decades ago and I've done a lot since it does tend to pop up. We even make fun of it in the panto even though a lot of the kids in it have no idea I was in Blue Peter!"

Coincidentally, Peter will continue to play the role of a panto dame next year. In one man one act play The Dame he portrays veteran variety performer Ronald Roy Humphrey. It's written by his daughter Katie.

He said: "We did The Dame at Edinburgh Festival and had a good response there. It's a study of a dame's life, a flashback to his childhood. There's quite a lot of darkness in there. Now I'm taking it on the road I'm going to have to develop a post-Brexit version."

I ask Peter how he's coping with the gruelling demands of this year's panto.

He said: "I've lost three pounds in the last week, it's great to be on stage singing and dancing, I get a lot of gratification in making people laugh and telling these stories."

There will be a short break for Peter for Christmas, then he'll be returning to Dorset.

"I'll spend Christmas Day back in London and come back on Boxing Day morning, if you're not too far away you can do it," he says.

Peter plans to keep producing pantos in years to come.

He said: "I don't know if it will be back in Poole, but it would be lovely to come back. I'll just have to see if they ask me!"

An ever-vigilant Peter phones me later that day to let me know that the nearest venue to this area where people can see The Dame is the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke on March 5.

No doubt Dorset audiences who have seen Peter's comic talent in panto will be keen to see the full acting range of this much loved actor and presenter.

*Peter Duncan stars as Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk, Lighthouse, Poole, continuing until January 5. See for performance dates and times or to book tickets. Or call the box office on 01202 280000.