'You never know what’s around the corner': Jay Blades tells us how hard work and 'mistakes' have been the making of him

As a dyslexic boy growing up in Hackney, Jay Blades didn’t have it easy, and he certainly didn’t expect to become an author. Here the TV star tells Amy Canavan about the journey to publication of his memoir Making It.

by
30/04/2021
5 minutes to read
Jay Blades wearing a white shirt and black flatcap, smiling in a refurbished red-brick warehouse

From dyslexia and difficulty to success as a TV presenter and restoration expert, Jay Blades has come a long way. Here the author of new memoir Making It tells Amy Canavan about how love, kindness and community have helped him overcome obstacles, and about how naivety has allowed him to set goals that others might find unthinkable. 

Can you describe how it feels to have your own book published, looking back on yourself as a young boy from Hackney? Did you think something like this would happen for you?

Looking back as a young boy, growing up in a single-parent family on a council estate in Hackney, I’d never have anticipated that I’d be writing my own book or even talking about it or even have people interested in reading my book. It’s kind of mind-blowing. It feels a little bit weird, it’s a weird experience to have people interested in you, your little life that you lived. It’s like ‘really – me?’  

You left school at a young age and have gone on to achieve so much personally and professionally. Would you say this is down to hard work and determination?

I think with everything I’ve achieved it must be down to hard work and determination and a little bit of stupidity. Let me explain – stupidity, because I applied for university and I never anticipated that I would have to read a book at university. I normally go into things quite naively, I just do it and figure it out as I start to participate in that activity, whatever it is, and that has worked to my advantage. It’s worked to my advantage in the sense that I haven’t really over-thought a situation, but I’ve worked really hard, sometimes over-hard to the extent of making myself sick, but I’m reaping the benefits now.

What advice would you give young people who may be struggling with something, to help them stay motivated and focused on their goals?

The only advice I can give young people who might be struggling with their goals or motivation would be just keep on going, you never know what’s around the corner. When you give up, it’s a case of that’s it, it’s all over so that means that there’s no chance of you achieving anything. But by not giving up, you give the possibility of the possibilities coming your way. So you should really keep on going, because even though you might have a clear destination of where you want to be, maybe along the way you might find another destination that says ‘that’s the one I’m supposed to be at,’ but you would never have guessed that or never have known it, unless you’d taken that leap of faith and just kept on going. 

‘Even though you might have a clear destination of where you want to be, maybe along the way you might find another destination that says ‘that’s the one I’m supposed to be at,’ but you would never have guessed that or never have known it, unless you’d taken that leap of faith and just kept on going. ’



Your book is called Making It – do you feel like you’ve made it? And is there anything else you want to achieve to feel like you’ve made it?

My book is called Making It and don’t believe for one minute that I have made it, that’s it, that I can curl up and die and everything’s sorted. I have so much more I want to achieve. One of my biggest goals is influencing people I’m never going to meet, and what that means is making the world a better place for people who are not here now. Even though my book is called ‘Making It,’ it’s talking about how it’s got me to where I am now. And basically where I am now is a point which has led from all of the mistakes I’ve made, all of the kind of imperfections I’ve got within myself – we’ve all got them. So I haven’t made it fully yet.

Your book is all about how love, kindness and community helped you fix your life. What does community mean to you – particularly after a year of such isolation?

My book is about how love, kindness and community have helped me reshape my life. For me, the way that we’ve acted throughout this year by standing two metres apart, wearing a mask, washing our hands, looking out for our neighbours, celebrating and clapping the NHS workers – that has shown me that there is power in community. And basically, if we can act that way as a world community and make sure that all of the cases are less than they anticipated the cases to be – imagine what we can do when we are allowed to come out and play. Imagine the power we can create as a community. The community has helped me achieve the life that I am at now. So imagine if we all worked together. I’m only one person, but imagine everyone supporting each other. How beautiful would that be?

Image credit: Amy Brathwaite


Making It

by Jay Blades

Book cover for Making It

Making It is an inspirational memoir about beating the odds and turning things around even when it all seems hopeless. In this book, Jay shares the details of his life, from his childhood growing up sheltered and innocent on a council estate in Hackney, to his adolescence when he was introduced to violent racism at secondary school, to being brutalized by police as a teen, to finally becoming a beloved TV star. Jay reflects on strength, weakness and what it means to be a man. He questions the boundaries society places on male vulnerability and how letting himself be nurtured helped him flourish into the person he is today. An expert at giving a second life to cherished items, he speaks about how his role as a restorer mirrors his own life – if something's broken, you can always find a way to put it back together.