Jay Blades returns to his East London roots

Tuesday: Jay Blades: My London - (Channel 5, 9pm)

Jay Blades is a popular guy.

He’s also an unassuming one – there’s no way he could ever have imagined a brief appearance demonstrating how to turn a bookcase into a doll’s house on one of Kirstie Allsopp’s craft-related shows could have led to mainstream ratings success on BBC One.

But that’s exactly what has happened to the 52-year-old father of three from Hackney.

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He and his half-brother (he has another incredible 26 half-siblings via his father) were raised by their single mother, whose hardworking ethics clearly sank into her son early on. Despite struggling at school, Blades managed to hold down a number of jobs, including in frozen sausage, bottle and Christmas card factories, before heading to university at the age of 29 to study criminology.

Once there he was diagnosed as dyslexic, something he discussed while making the well-received documentary Learning to Read at 51, which was shown earlier this year.

“When I was trying to get a job, you know you have to fill in the application form, I would always say I didn’t have my glasses,” he claims. “I didn’t wear glasses at the time, and I would take it away and get someone else to fill it in. I remember once I had a letter from a doctor and I had to go out on the street and get someone to read it to me because I didn’t know what it said in there… you find loads of coping strategies.”

But despite all his hard work and endeavour, Blades eventually hit rock bottom after his marriage broke down and the charity he set up, which aimed to teach disadvantaged youths furniture restoration skills, collapsed. However, with the help of close friends and family, he managed to turn things around.

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Since Allsopp’s show, Blades has fronted daytime hit Money For Nothing and Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop. However, it’s The Repair Shop for which he’s best known – the show has been a huge success and was even honoured with a parody edition featuring Judi Dench, her daughter Finty Williams and French and Saunders during the most recent Comic Relief night. He’s also received an MBE for services to craft and set up his own production company, Hungry Jay Media.

“I pinch myself sometimes,” muses Blades. “I’ve been working non-stop, so I haven’t really had the chance to take on board what I’ve done. But there’s so much more I want to achieve; there’s loads of things I want to do.”

He’s getting to tick one of them off his list with his latest TV venture. My London is a new series in which he returns to his East London roots to explore its past as well as his own, learning more about the area’s history in the company of his old school friends.

“I’m really excited to be filming this series,” claims Blades. “It’s going to bring memories flooding back.

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“I can’t wait to go back to my old neighbourhood and discover the history on its doorstep. The places I visit are the buildings, streets and communities that made me the man I am today.”

We can’t wait to go with him either – and to see what’s next on this remarkable man’s journey through life.