Jay Blades says childhood was blighted by racism and violence – but Repair Shop fixed him


During an appearance on Desert Island Discs, Jay, 52, said the show quickly won viewers’ hearts because it is all about “community, love and kindness.” From day one he says he knew bringing together specialists from all crafts and hearing about people’s attachment to family heirlooms would make the programme special.

For him, the “joy” was seeing people who for just a few split seconds remembered every relative linked to a treasured item as they are reunited with it.

Talking about the programme’s appeal, he told host Lauren Laverne: “It talks about stuff that we all want, which is a community, people coming together, love and then also just kindness. 

“It’s like people just feel comfortable and open up.”

He recalled one of the first reveals being a “bubbly” lady who brought in a piano stool which she sat on as a child as her grandmother taught her to play.

Jay said: “When she came back to pick it up, what happened was she put her hand on top of the stool and that was it, she just broke down and she just cried.”

“It was the weirdest experience because we were just having a laugh and then it was wow!”

“I said to her what are you thinking? and she said I can feel my grandmother here.”

“That’s when I knew this was going to be special.”

Jay told how his father, who he refers to as the “man that contributed towards my birth”, was absent when he was teenager experiencing racism and violence at school, from the police and from skinheads.

He said: “The Repair Shop has fixed me because what it has done is actually brought me into another family, that is people in front and behind the camera who have looked after me and understand my kind of, what I call them, differences and just accept them.”

“The family, Kirsten, Steve, Will.. you have to be there to understand. What you see on television is brilliant, don’t get me wrong. It’s even better in real life.”

Explaining what his restoration work means to him now, he said: “The joy that I have doing it myself is kind of a kid-like state.”

“So when I get creative I forget all of the bills, ambitions, whatever. “

“When you are doing it on Repair Shop, I think the joy is of seeing someone pick up an item, and you can actually see them remembering every family member that is related to that item just for that split second, the silence, where they are just holding an item for a minute and you can see them remembering.”

He told Laverne, 44, he was determined to make the show more diverse and a focus in the future will be on apprentices so the team can pass down over 600 years of collective skills to the next generation of craftspeople.

Among the discs, he would take to a desert island were Help Me Make It Through The Night by John Holt, Revolution by Dennis Brown and Take Me To The Alley by George Porter.

His book choice was the autobiography of Malcolm X and his luxury item a reclining massaging chair.

*Listen to the full interview on BBC Radio 4 at 11.15am today or on BBC Sounds.



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