The Repair Shop secrets you need to know

With a new series of one of our favourite shows just started, we chat to some of the stars of the show.

The-Repair-Shop

by Lorna White |

For Julie Tatchell and Amanda Middleditch, aka ‘The Teddy Bear Ladies’, the ethos behind The Repair Shop is one they are very much in tune with.

“Every item that is brought in is priceless to its owner,” says pink-haired Amanda. “Monetary value doesn’t come into it. When you’ve built up an attachment to something, you can’t put a price on it and this is one of the reasons we love being a part of The Repair Shop – we’re all about sentiment and feelings, too. If it had been about money, I don’t think we would have wanted to be involved. It’s a very honest show. There are no quick tricks, fixes or shortcuts. What you see us do on the programme, is absolutely what happens.”

“It’s not like the work is done by someone else once the cameras stop rolling,” adds Julie. “And we don’t take any of the bears back to our workshop, either. It’s all genuine.”

Although they’ve been working their teddy bear magic – restoring and repairing damaged soft toys – on the show since it started in 2017, both ladies say they still get nervous about doing their stuff on screen.

“It’s the reveal that’s the most nerve- wracking,” says Amanda. “Neither of us go through that with a huge amount of confidence. When an owner is reunited with their bear, it really is the first time they will have seen it. It is a very emotional moment – both for them and for us. Julie and I will have invested so much love into the bears, after hearing their stories. We almost start talking to them!”

“We also talk an awful lot about their owners,” says Julie. “We so badly want to live up to their expectations. Until we see their faces as they’re reunited with their bears, we’re very nervous. It’s the same for all us experts.”

What do the ladies think is the enduring appeal of teddy bears and their like? “They’re such an important part of childhood,” Amanda replies. “You form a deep bond with your teddy. You hug it, cuddle it, love it, take it everywhere with you, tell it everything, cry into it. It stays the same and is always there. My own favourite childhood teddy was actually a polar bear, based on a real bear called Pipaluk who was born at London Zoo in 1969. I don’t know what happened to him, but Julie found another Pipaluk on eBay and bought him for me.”

Julie has never really forgiven her mum for binning her favourite bear – Yellow Ted – when she was about nine years old.

“I’ve certainly never let her forget it! I think it was one of those, ‘If you don’t tidy your room, you know what’ll happen’ moments and she followed it through.”

Both ladies collect teddy bears themselves – but one rather more than the other. “Amanda is out of control,” laughs Julie. “She’s terrible.”

So just how many teds does Amanda have? “More than 100,” she replies. “I can’t help myself. I go into a shop or I’m looking online, and there’ll always be one little face – maybe more – that reels me in. It’s not about them being collectable items, valuable or sought after – it’s about love.

“Some of them sit on a shelf my lovely husband made which runs all the way around our bedroom at curtain rail height. I look at their faces when I’m in bed and they look back at me.

“Every so often, they’re brought down for a bit of a clean and a brush-up, and my husband, being taller than me, puts them back. I have to direct him, though. ‘No, not that one there,’ I’ll say. ‘I want him on the other side so I can see him when I wake up in the morning!”

The charismatic, sartorially elegant Jay Blades has been hosting The Repair Shop since it started in 2017 and he says one of the secrets of its success is the genuine closeness between the show’s experts and crew. “In addition to the joy of being able to restore people’s much-loved possessions and hearing the stories behind them, we really are like a family on The Repair Shop – and that goes for the experts and the people behind the camera, too. I feel this very special connection we have comes through.

“Like all families, we take the mickey out of each other as well chatting, laughing, crying, eating and drinking together. We miss each other when we’re not together. It’s a real joy coming to work.”

The key to Jay’s success has been the furniture repair skills he has taught himself and picked up from a string of master craftsmen and women.

“I’d always done repairs; they call it ‘upcycling’ now but when I was a kid we called it ‘make do and mend’,” he laughs.

When it comes to life at home, you’d imagine Jay’s place to be a riot of colour. Not so. “My house is like 50 shades of beige,” he laughs. “Beige, beige and more beige! I need a work/home divide and living in very neutral surroundings means I can really see colours. They ‘pop out’ when I’m in my workshop or on The Repair Shop. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I was surrounded by colour all the time.”

Can I visit where The Repair Shop is filmed?

The series is filmed at Court Barn from Lee-on-the-Solent and during the months of filming, it's closed to the public. However, for a few very special open dates, fans of the show will be able to visit. The open dates are:

29-30 January

5-6 February

12-13 February

26-27 February

Although the cast and crew won't be there, there's plenty to see inside the barn. You can find out more at wealddown.co.uk/the-repair-shop/

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