Presenter Jay Blades to don dancing shoes for Strictly Christmas Special
- Credit: Amy Brathwaite/PA
Hackney's Jay Blades will be replacing his crafting tools for dancing shoes to take on this year's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.
The Repair Shop presenter and furniture restorer - born in Brent, raised on a Hackney council estate and schooled in Islington - will be dancing with Russian choreographer and dancer Luba Mushtuk.
Speaking from Barbados via video link, the 51-year-old told Strictly spin-off It Takes Two: “It is probably one of the things I love doing most, which is challenging myself and doing something I have never done before.
“I could do a dad dance but I can’t do full dancing. So let’s dive in there and have a go.”
Jay has had his fair share of challenges, dealing with dyslexia and racism while attending secondary school.
In his memoir, Making It, the presenter describes how he turned to violence to beat bullies and left school at 15 with no qualifications.
He worked in a number of jobs after leaving school, including in a frozen sausage factory, a bottle factory and a Christmas card factory, before retraining aged 29 and becoming involved in charity work.
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Jay says his life turned around when he started volunteering, particularly setting up a social enterprise dedicated to buying old furniture and teaching restoration skills to youngsters from disadvantaged communities.
Media interest at a trade fair helped launch a career in TV, leading to shows Money For Nothing and The Repair Shop on BBC One.
In recognition of his contributions, Jay was made an MBE earlier this year for his services to craft.
He, together with First Dates host Fred Sirieix, are the first two celebrities to have been announced for this year's Christmas special of the hit show.
Last year's special was shelved due to Covid-19, with a countdown of the top 25 most memorable dances in Strictly history airing in its place.
The Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special will air on BBC One on Christmas Day.