Keith Lemon hopes to 'make crafting cool' in new show with Anna Richardson

As a well-timed new crafting series begins on Channel 4 this weekend, co-hosts Keith Lemon and Anna Richardson speak to Sherna Noah.

The pair are fronting new show The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft. Photo: PA Photo/Channel 4/Mark Johnson

It’s hard to imagine a better time for the introduction of The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft.

The brand-new, six-part Channel 4 series offers viewers a window into the world of creativity and craftsmanship by challenging skilful competitors to create makes of epic proportions.

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And who better to front it than Leeds-born comedian and master crafter Keith Lemon and co-host Anna Richardson.

Anna Richardson and Keith Lemon. Photo: PA Photo/Channel 4/Mark Johnson

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“I think people are generally getting a bit low, so this is bright, bubbly, fantastical and magical, and it’s definitely going to encourage people to get crafting,” says Richardson. “And what’s so nice about it is that it is ordinary people who just happen to be able to do something creative and extraordinary.”

Filmed in a surreal factory set (think Willy Wonka), each episode sees four grafting crafters navigate their way through a number of tasks – from creating a bespoke item in response to a brief from Lemon, in the role of factory owner, to fulfilling a commission set out by an impressive roster of famous guests.

While quality control craft experts Harriet Vine and Zak Khchai will help choose the three most impressive makes in the first round, with the worst one being dramatically recycled, the ultimate winner is only declared following the second celebrity-driven finale. Guests include Nick Grimshaw, Mel B, Eamonn Holmes, Martin Kemp and Katherine Ryan.

As for the tasks at hand, there’s everything from a 3D model of Lemon’s head (“That was the most self-indulgent task ever and I felt really weird about it”) to a mythical creature puppet, and beyond.

“This guy called Samuel came in chopping wood – he looked like Ashton Kutcher so he is going to be so popular with the ladies,” says Lemon, whose mum stars as the show’s resident tea lady.

“He literally came in with a lump of wood, an axe, and a couple of tools…” Richardson continues, explaining how he took on the puppet task. “So you’ve got a log, you’ve got four hours, and within that time he handcrafted an articulated Phoenix. It’s amazing.”

It’s a line-up that has gone on to inspire avid crafter Lemon to try out other mediums rather than his usual go-to: bubble wrap and masking tape.

“During lockdown, I’ve got into sculpting,” he says. “But everything I made on the show was still made of bubble wrap – a chihuahua, a giraffe.”

A talented artist, Lemon – before becoming a household name – studied art and design at Leeds College of Art. He’s since recreated props for many of his TV shows; built life-size models of the Star Wars characters R2D2 and C3PO; and founded KIL Clothes, his official clothing line where all the clothes feature his original designs and he uploads his makes, graphic designs and doodles to social media to #lemonart. “It’s a different vibe for me, this show, because it’s not how you’ve seen me before,” he says.

“On this it’s just genuinely being interested in people creating things. All my mates were like, ‘This show is made for you!’”

“You see a much softer, kinder, more interested, less ADHD side to him,” says Richardson, who studied history of art (and English) at university. “So rather than being the mad guy from Celebrity Juice, you see a much calmer, more considered, really knowledgeable Keith.”

Do the duo have any tips for budding artists at home? “Buy rolls of masking tape and always have plenty of PVA glue,” says Lemon.

Richardson adds: “You can divide the audience into people like Keith, who are already really good crafters and really creative, so they will already know where to go to get their supplies – and then all the rest of us.

“For someone like me who is a complete beginner but really interested, my tips would be go on to a website where you can get your kits or your supplies and also start following people on social media. There are loads of free tutorials that will just show you step-by-step guides of how to craft something – that’s what I’m doing while I’m at home.

“And just from a mental health point of view, while everybody is stuck in and there’s lots of very anxious people, when you craft and when you create, you go into a state of flow.

“So if you’ve got your complete attention on something, it’s been proven to really help with mental health and any kind of anxiety.”

The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft starts on Channel 4 on May 10.

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