Host of The Repair Shop, Jay Blades, joins Happiful to talk about the amazing ability to mend anything, even ourselves, with the help of community, human connection, and conversation
Jay Blades is visibly buzzing with energy when he pops up on the screen from his agent’s central London office. The past month has been hectic for him, he says, but in the best way possible. He’s received an MBE for his services to craft, The Repair Shop has returned for its 10th series, and No Place Like Home, a fantastic new documentary series about his childhood home, Hackney, has recently aired.
Making It: How Love, Kindness and Community Helped Me Repair My Life, Jay’s autobiographical book, has also recently been published in paperback. It’s a warm, honest, and open account of everything that’s brought him to the point he’s at today. It charts his struggle with mental ill-health, the people and places that brought him back to a place of wellness, his relationships, and deep love of mending and making good of objects and situations that others might write off.
“I don’t like to give up on people or things,” Jay says emphatically on this subject. “I believe that everything can be repaired, and it might take a little while – I know on The Repair Shop we normally do it in 15 minutes, but in the real world it could take anything between a day and six months to repair an item. If you’re ‘repairing’ somebody, it could take their whole life.”
Jay knows this concept personally, and draws on his own experience, including actively contemplating suicide seven years ago.
“I needed repairing at 45, and I’m still repairing myself,” he says, with raw honesty. “I’m still looking around to make sure that I manage my mental health, and stay strong physically, too. I do that with the support of other people, who make sure that I eat right, I sleep enough, and so on. I listen to those people, because I’m vulnerable and I’m not as strong as I believed I used to be.”
Jay’s clear that maintaining wellbeing isn’t a lone project for anybody. “The reality is that we need people to help us repair us, because if you fall down again, who are you going to speak to? You can’t speak to yourself if you’re in a dark place. You need that community.”
The concept and impact of community fascinates Jay, and he’s explored this further in his recent documentary. Over three hour-long episodes, he learns about the history of the streets he walked as a boy, meets old friends and local heroes, and wonders at the incredible events and unbelievable injustices that took place mere minutes and miles from where he played as
Hackney, he says, has left an indelible mark on his heart, and helped him to form the unshakeable ethos he has when it comes to community support and giving back. He explains that he’s benefitted from the support of so many people at different stages in his life that it’s on