Jay Blades introduces a new team of local apprentice carpenters on BBC2’s Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop

New BBC2 series Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop is set to make stars of its team of six local apprentices and their three mentors, but who are they? Stephanie Smith reports.

Jay Blades with Ant, Ciaran, Les, Kate, Jabbar, Becky, Saf, Isabelle and Graham.
Jay Blades with Ant, Ciaran, Les, Kate, Jabbar, Becky, Saf, Isabelle and Graham.

Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop launches tonight, the first of a BBC2 six-part series filmed in Bradford, following Jay Blades and a team of six real Yorkshire folk (young and not-so-young), each with a passion to become a master carpenter.

They are guided by expert mentors to create bespoke furniture and other wooden designs as gifts to local heroes, those who have gone above and beyond to help their community.

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Jay, who has family in Leeds, said Bradford was chosen “because it’s such a warm community”.

Jay with Connor, middle, and Jack, who donated half his kidney.

Filming began in April in Bradford city centre, although the exact location is a secret. The series is set to make stars of its crafters, who are mostly from Yorkshire, exploring their lives as they learn on the job.

Tonight focuses on Les, from Huddersfield, a retired building maintenance surveyor and joiner. “I’ve always liked wood. It’s a tactile material,” he says. As well as new skills, he is looking for a new “sense of worth”. “When you’re retired, it’s as though you’re irrelevant, and that hurts,” he says. Shortly after retiring, he had a heart attack. “It inspired me to learn more quickly,” he says.

The stories of the other five apprentices will be explored in more detail in upcoming episodes. Jabbar, 30, is a school caretaker from Bradford. “When I’m working with wood, I feel at ease. It’s almost as if your soul goes into it,” he says.

Meanwhile, 69-year-old Graham, from Leeds, is a retired engineer who says he knows the type of wood by its smell - and turns out to be a dab hand at marquetry.

The team from the Anchor House Care Home.

Kate, from Tingley, began her carpentry journey four years ago when she joined a woodworking club and tonight’s episode sees her meet the challenge of using a huge circular saw.

Ant, 38, from Huddersfield, got into woodworking as a child when his stepfather made a rabbit hutch. Becky, 27, is a design graduate.

On hand to mentor are Saf Fakir, Isabelle Moore and Ciaran O Braonain.

Saf, from Thornbury, studied industrial design at Keighley College and Huddersfield University before following in his father’s footsteps to become a joiner. He specialises in bespoke staircases and furniture,with his companies JXR Design and Build and JXR Woodworks.

Isabelle, Becky and Jay with Karen, a mum of three adopted children with additional needs, who runs the LS29 group in Ilkley.

Isabelle is a designer based in Edinburgh known for her contemporary designs and freestanding furniture.

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The first episode features Connor, from Leeds, who had a life-threatening liver condition when Jack, a complete stranger, responded to a social media post asking if anyone would donate half their liver to save his life. After their operations, they became friends and fell in love. Soon to set up home together, expert woodworker Saf and his team made a mid-century inspired sideboard as a thank-you gift to Jack for his selfless act.

Jack is delighted. “It’s going to symbolise the journey we have been on together,” he says.

Meanwhile, Sue, from Doncaster, nominates Karen, manager of the Anchor House Care Home where eight staff moved in at the start of the pandemic for 56 days to protect their residents. There were no infections. Ciaran and Jay design a curved arbour for the care home garden.

Finally, Caroline from Baildon, nominates her friend Karen, a mum of three adopted children with additional needs, who runs the LS29 group in Ilkley for similar families. Isabelle’s team creates a bespoke sewing box with exquisite marquetry for her. “That’s so beautiful. I love it,” she says, adding: “I’ve never had anything made just for me.”

* Jay’s Yorkshire Workshops is on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC2.