A Bradford cobbler has made his TV debut on BBC1’s The Repair Shop to take on the important task of repairing the treasured pair of running shoes that sprinted athlete Audrey Brown to silver in the 4x100m relay at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in front of Adolf Hitler.
Dean Westmoreland, whose Yorkshire Sole shoe repair business is at Shipley Market Square, took care of the running spikes from Audrey’s grandson Tom Wenham, from Ilkley, a former lacrosse England player who is coaching Team GB Men’s lacrosse.
Audrey ran for the Birchfield Harriers in Birmingham and championed women in sport. She died in 2005, aged 92, and left Tom the precious bespoke leather running spikes wrapped in a tea towel, but they were so severely damaged that he had not dared to touch them.
The Repair Shop viewers saw him almost lost for words and visibly moved when expert cobbler Dean presents the restored shoes to him, having worked on the 85-year-old leather he describes as “very thirsty”.
Before the show aired, Dean, who lives in Clayton, said he would be watching The Repair Shop with his fiancee, Leigh, and sons, six-year-old Oscar and four-year-old Otis.
His first thought when he saw the running shoes was “Can I actually repair them?”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I always like a challenge. I thought they were just going to fall to dust, but you could see they were well made, so I thought they could stand being repaired.”
Nonetheless, it was a challenge, he admits. “I was stumped by the old fibre construction. There were a few tricky bits, but everybody pitched in.”
He too was moved by Tom’s reaction to the restored shoes. “When you know the story, it does add a lot of weight,” he said. “The emotion you see on camera, it’s real. No one is acting.”
“It's all about detail to me,” says Dean. “Using hand tools, hand welting and treating each pair of shoes as my own. All this and more seemed to have been forgotten.”
There will be more challenges for Dean in the upcoming episodes of The Repair Shop. Tomorrow night sees Jay Blades and the team tackle a rare historic painting, a vintage sewing machine, a Beatles souvenir from the Swinging Sixties and a splintered stained-glass window.
*The Repair Shop airs Wednesdays, 8pm, BBC One or catch up on BBC iPlayer.