All change for The Great Pottery Throw Down

Sunday: The Great Pottery Throw Down; (Channel 4, 7.45pm)

Saturday, 9th January 2021, 5:00 pm
Potters with the presenter and judges
Potters with the presenter and judges

There’s no chance of a Hollywood handshake, a Prue pat, or even a tantalising glimpse of Patrick Grant’s facial hair, but there’s still no doubt that The Great Pottery Throw Down is from the same stable as the Bake Off and Sewing Bee.

It’s back for its fourth run this week, which will please fans no end.

But the future once looked bleak for both this show and Sewing Bee. When Love Productions moved Bake Off to Channel 4, and neither of its sister shows appeared in the schedules for an age, many thought they’d bitten the dust. However, Sewing Bee stuck with BBC Two and is still going strong and, after a gap of almost three years between the second and third series, the Throw Down returned too, albeit on More4 before finding a more prestigious berth on Channel 4.

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All three shows – which, by and large, use the same format – are thriving, despite undergoing big personnel changes over the years.

Out of the original Bake Off line-up, only Paul Hollywood remains; similarly the aforementioned Grant is the only person involved in Sewing Bee who appeared in the very first episode.

This year, the Thrown Down introduces its third new presenter. The show’s first host was Sara Cox, who seemed an unlikely choice at the time. She was perhaps still best known as a Radio 1 DJ and for her former status as a ladette; these days she’s rather more cultured, having recently finished a run as presenter of BBC Two’s book show Between the Covers – perhaps showing a different side to herself on Thrown Down helped get her the gig.

Melanie Sykes followed when the show moved to More4, but the latest run will be fronted by Siobhan McSweeney, who’s perhaps best known for playing the formidable Sister Michael in hit sitcom Derry Girls, while judge Sue Pryke isn’t returning either. Instead, her place is being taken by Richard Miller.

Those who’ve seen the programme in the past will recognise him as ‘kiln man Rich’. He’s appeared in every series so far, starting out in the background helping to set up challenges and assisting the potters wherever possible. During the last run he got a little more screen time, so the show’s makers clearly felt he was ready to make the step up to judge. He certainly has the background for it – for the past 12 years he’s been running handmade tile company Froyle Tiles in Surrey and has his own studio, where he produces work inspired by historical design.

Thankfully one person remaining in place is Miller’s fellow judge Keith Brymer Jones. A world renowned ceramicist, he’s famous for bursting into tears on viewing items made by the competitors – not because he thinks they’re terrible, but because he’s so moved by their beauty.

So if you spy a spot of weeping following the opening challenges – which include making a cheese set and port chalices – you’ll know that something very special indeed has happened.

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