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‘Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop’ star Jay Blades: ‘It’s a joy!’

Jay Blades in Jay's Yorkshire Workshop
Jay's Yorkshire Workshop star Jay Blades help creates some special gifts. (Image credit: (C) Ricochet)

Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop finds The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades turning his attention from restoring cherished heirlooms to creating special bespoke gifts for deserving members of the public. 

The new six-part series, airing on BBC2, sees the furniture restorer establish a studio in West Yorkshire where three experts hand-craft unique wooden thank you presents for those who have helped their local communities. The experts are assisted by two apprentices each who come from varied backgrounds and all have their own special reasons for wanting to learn new skills.

We caught up with Jay to find out more...

Jay's Yorkshire Workshop sounds amazing. Why did you want to make the series?

“It’s about going back to my roots of community work and celebrating the uncelebrated who are doing wonderful things in our society. We’ve celebrated the NHS workers who have supported us but what about the people who are not visible? It's wonderful they can get recognised as well. It’s a real joy.”

How does it work?

“People are nominated and we’ve got a youth worker, a farmer, someone who set up a mental health charity, and even a tailor who has been doing things during Covid-19. And we say, ‘Right, we're making this for them’. Everything’s made from wood and designed specifically for that person and then we invite them in to receive it. They're blown away.”

Tell us about the three makes in the opening episode…

Jay Blades in Jay's Yorkshire Workshop

Jay Blades presents care home workers with a stunning arbour in Jay's Yorkshire Workshop. (Image credit: (C) Ricochet)

“We made a sewing box for Karen, who set up a charity for disabled families. Then there’s a sideboard for a donor [Jack, who donated half his liver to a stranger, Connor, and they have since started a relationship]. Disney couldn’t write such a beautiful fairytale, imagine someone giving you part of their body, and then you fall in love with them! And we made an arbour for a care home where the staff moved in to stop the spread of Covid-19 and, as a result, they had no cases.” 

The six apprentices who help make the pieces also get a huge amount out of it don’t they?

Jay Blades and his team in Jay's Yorkshire Workshop

Jay Blades oversees proceedings as his experts and apprentices show off their skills in Jay's Yorkshire Workshop. (Image credit: (C) Ricochet)

“Yes, I have a heart-to-heart with each maker about what's brought them here and what's stopping them from going forward. I heard someone's story and I was affected big time. I burst out crying. But we've grown the makers’ confidence and they can achieve anything now. Kate [a 22-year-old craftswoman], was scared of the table saw but now she runs to it! And Graham [a retired engineer, 69], who’s suffering from dementia, pushed himself to learn a new skill.”

Do you hope this will encourage people to help their own communities?

“It makes you feel, ‘I need to give back and do something.’ We're hoping it will inspire you to think about your contribution. There are so many people that need our support or just some hands on deck. Communities work best when the community is working together.” 

You’ve also got two new documentaries coming up, BBC1’s Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51, which explores your struggles with literacy, and Channel 5’s The Streets Where I Lived. Tell us about those...

“I’m learning to read and doing phonics. It’s pushing me out of my comfort zone. But if I can do it, you can do it. I know it will inspire people to start to learn to read, because it holds us back. And I’m also going back to the streets where I used to live. A lot has changed, but it was unbelievable to hear about who lived there before me and the history.” 

Where can I watch Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop?

The six-part series will air on Wednesday 18 August on BBC2 at 9pm. It will also air on BBCiPlayer.