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Jay Blades opens up about experiencing racism early on: 'It was a constant battle'

The furniture restorer revealed his struggles with racism

the repair shop jay blades© Photo: BBC
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
November 17, 2021
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Since first appearing on BBC’s The Repair Shop in 2017, Jay Blades’ has quickly become one of the channel’s most recognisable faces and has amassed a legion of fans through presenting the heartwarming heirloom-fixing show.

MORE: Will Kirk shares rare look behind the scenes of The Repair Shop - as fan favourite returns

While his career has gone from strength to strength since making his debut on the series, things weren’t always so easy for the furniture restorer, who experienced racism during his childhood.

WATCH: The Repair Shop leaves guest in tears after Will Kirk's impressive repair

Speaking to The Guardian in a previous interview, Jay opened up about the racism he faced as a child. He said: "I didn’t understand the names at first, but I understood when someone punched me. From the first year, it was a constant battle between me and the racists. The level of racism that I received in school was insane."

The presenter, who grew up in Hackney, east London, also opened up about his experiences of racism in the classroom, and puts it down to "institutionalised racism". He explained: "There were ways that teachers dealt with young black men – and even to this day, we still have alarming statistics about the exclusion rate of young black men, and the criminalisation of young black men. And that’s probably why it wasn’t picked up: ‘He’s black, you can’t teach him, he’s ignorant, put him in that class.’ That’s how they dealt with it."

MORE: The Repair Shop's Will Kirk brings fans to tears with 'masterpiece' restoration

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As well as revealing his struggles with racism, Jay has also recently spoken about being diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult and how literacy difficulties left him with the reading ability of an 11-year-old. Hoping to change this, Jay is learning to read with the help of a charity that organises volunteer coaches to work one to one with readers.

jay blades daughter reading© Photo: Instagram

Jay revealed that his daughter is his inspiration for learning to read

The upholster-turned-presenter also revealed that his main motivation for learning to read is so he can share bedtime stories with his daughter. Speaking on This Morning earlier this year, Jay said: "My motive for doing it was to read my daughter a bedtime story and write her a letter, which I’ve never done. She’s about 15 years old now so it’s going to be a little outdated, me reading a story, but it’s one of those things I want to do."

The BBC commissioned a one-off documentary show earlier this year, titled Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51, which will follow Jay on his journey to literacy.

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