"One night I'm throwing dildos at Mel B, the next day I'm in the factory... I feel really lucky that I can do naughty, late-night telly and this at the same time!"
When you think of Keith Lemon, a wholesome show about crafting which he co-hosts with Naked Attraction's Anna Richardson may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But sometimes the most unexpected of scenarios turn out to be the best ones, and that's certainly the case with The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft.
The new six-part series launches Sunday at 8pm on Channel 4 and could just be the show we've all been waiting for during lockdown.
Each episode will see four skilful amateur crafters create prop-like, mic-drop crafts of epic proportions, using their artistic talent to create spectacular makes.
Keith then chooses the best three to go on to craft for a special celebrity client, including Eamonn Holmes, Mel B and Nick Grimshaw, who each take home their favourite craft.
As is the modern way these days, I recently caught up with Keith Lemon and Anna Richardson over a Zoom call to discuss the concerns around working with someone new,
How did the show first come about?
Keith Lemon: I know someone at Channel 4 and I messaged them "Do you think people would like a new Bo' Selecta and they said "Yes. Are you interested in this?" and I said "Yes." Then I sent them lots of pictures of things that I'd made and they couldn't believe I'd made them and said "This is perfect".
Then Anna Richardson said yes. We'd arranged a few times to meet but never did so we met on the day and luckily it worked. Hopefully we'll do more stuff Anna.
Anna Richardson: Yeah I hope so...
Keith: And series two and three and four and five as well.
Anna: There's always a bit of concern when you've got two presenters who don't know each other and you put them together on a new show about whether the chemistry is going to be there. For a part of my life I grew up in Leeds in exactly the area where Keith was brought up.
My dad was the Vicar of Leeds, so I've probably got off with him at some point when I was a teenager and I've got two brothers, so for me it just felt really natural to be around Keith.
Keith: I was a fan of you on telly!
Anna: Were you?!
Keith: Yeah. For years!
Anna: Oh that's really kind, thank you. I didn't know that. At least someone was watching!
What was the first day of filming like, seeing as you didn't know each other?
Keith: I actually went to visit the set the day before we started because it's not that far from where I live and I thought it were amazing. Then we both got on set and went "What we doing?!" (Laughs) But luckily it kinda happened by itself I think... didn't it?
Anna: Yeah, the way that it worked was on that day everyone was really excited because the set is in Elstree, it's stunning - like nothing I've done before. It's all very fantastical and Willy Wonka.
Our make-up rooms were next door to each other so Keith asked me if I wanted to come in and have a cup of tea and a chat. So we sat down before filming, had a bit of a catch up over some vegan sausage rolls and a cup of tea and then we were called to set! What was lovely is that we were learning as we were going along.
Genuinely, there are some shows you do where things misfire, things don't feel very comfortable, and this show was the exact opposite. Everything was smooth and jolly and positive and creative - which is exactly what we need... right now.
It's weird that it's come along and is being TX'd now because it's exactly what everyone needs.
Keith: I don't think I've ever worked with someone before who has also worked behind the camera, so it was nice to relax with a presenter who can produce as well. It made me go "I'll let her get on with it. She knows what she's doing. I'll follow her!"
It is a great time for the show and crafting is really big right now isn't it?
Keith: It's really big online innit crafting? A lot of YouTubers do crafting and I'd seen that and thought "Oh this might work". I've seen the first episode properly - the rest of them I did the voiceover but I ain't sat and watched it properly - and it's everything I hoped it would be. I think people will enjoy it, it's really lovely, it's the polar opposite to what I've ever done before!
So anyone watching going "'ere let's watch Keith Lemon get his dick out" and stuff - it's not that. It is a very lovely, joyous, craft programme. It's very Willy Wonka-esque.
Anna: Going back to the timing. Absolutely, the show couldn't be more perfect. People are at home crafting more than ever. They're cooking, they're creating, they're having sex or they're exercising - so we actually combine all of that in a way. We are being creative and it's jolly and it's bright and it's fun and it's aspirational - it's family. I'm really hoping it will resonate with people at home.
There's an ever-growing trend of challenge shows on television, what sets this show apart?
Keith: Me and Anna are better than anyone else! The set is better than any set on those other programmes. Actually, you know what I like? Is that there's no financial gain. There's no prize at the end. What they win, is they make this thing, and then at the end of it one of them gets to see the celebrity go home with what they've made.
It didn't set out to be a wellbeing type of programme, the interest for me was the crafting element of it. But it is great and whilst it is about wellbeing, it doesn't bang on about it. i wouldn't want people to watch it and think that it does. But it does make you feel good.
It's good for you to do crafting and when someone comes along and says "Your crafting is amazing" - it makes your chest feel even bigger. It's good for your soul.
There was one girl on there who has never been told that she was good and we were all amazed by her craft. She was in tears, I was nearly in tears and I had to just think of tax bills because I could feel a camera coming round and I didn't want them to see me crying. It's a positive show. There's no slurring or anything, it's just big ups, big ups, big ups!
Anna: What sets it apart, is that at the moment I think we've got a glut of cookery competitions, whether it's MasterChef or Bake Off or Great British Menu or Britain's Best - whatever - Home Cook! This is not that. It's a closed ep series. So rather than having 10 people at the start that you whittle down, within our eps you've always got a winner.
We've got a celebrity element to it, but whereas with other shows - let's say Celebrity Bake Off where everyone's showing off, what's nice about this show is that we invite celebrities in and they stop being celebrities.
There's something about the set, because it's so quiet and people are working that you stop being "Mel B from Spice Girls". Suddenly they just become an ordinary person from Leeds that's actually really genuinely interested in what's being made - because at the end of the day, they're going to take it home. I think there's a realness to this show that is comforting.
The celebrities come in with a genuine need for the craft that they've requested the crafters to make. They genuinely have all taken them home so there's a real authenticity to that as a process - rather than "Here's the best 4 celebrities that we can get in this week."
What was it like to present such a wholesome pre-watershed show?
Keith: I've loved it because me mum Pat's there as the tea lady as well - people say "Is it difficult for you to do pre-watershed telly and not swear and stuff?" - but I don't swear in front of my mum, so she's there anyway. I guess I swear on Celebrity Juice because I'm drunk.
But we're filming this show during the day, it's a really calming environment as soon as you walk in to the factory. I was filming Juice at the same time - one night I'm throwing dildos at Mel B, the next day I'm in the factory and I describe it as "swimming in a cup of tea" - that's how it felt. It's so calming.
Sometimes I couldn't help it when they've got two minutes left and I'd shout "TWO MINUTES!" 'cos I couldn't help it. I wanted some noise.
You mentioned your mum there Keith, how did her involvement come about? Did she take much convincing?
Keith: She said yes straight away! They auditioned a few people to be tea ladies and I said "My mum's prettier than those tea ladies" and I think it's good to bring realism to this fantastic world. I think people will be interested to see my mum and go "That's not his mum!" - but it is.
It's very embarrassing when Anna goes "Pat, do you still have sex?" - of course she doesn't do that in the programme, this is when we're off set. But everyone just got on, it was so lovely and I'm still in touch with a lot of the crafters via Instagram.
What are some of your favourite crafts from the series?
Keith: For me, there was a self-indulgent episode where they all have to make a portrait of me, so I liked everybody's piece of work there. I liked the piece of craft that was made for Katherine Ryan - she asked them to make her a Catropolis, a house for her cat. They were really good.
Also, there was a cosplayer on there that I was a big fan of. And a guy who did stuff with tin cans - he didn't use them on the show but I looked on his Instagram and he makes a lot of things out of tin cans and has promised that he's going to make me an Ironman mask out of Budweiser cans.
Cardboard Chris is amazing because he's very much like me I think, because I make a lot of cardboard things. But he paints his cardboard and I like to keep it all pure. Don't paint your cardboard!
Anna: I think it depends what you're into as well. Obviously for Keith, he's really into cosplay and big scale, hands-on stuff. For me - and I think maybe as a girl as well - there are a couple of things that stood out for me.
There was a stay-at-home dad who only worked with polished copper piping and he made an incredible copper piping console table and a couple of lamps. I was like "Bloody hell! That's the kind of thing you would see out in Central London in a posh furniture store." - they got nicked very soon afterwards by a member of production.
Also, there was this beautiful Asian woman who came on called Anne who had to create a sort of mythical creature and she'd taken this old Chinese mythical goddess who was half snake, half woman and created this porcelain head out of porcelain clay, hand-painted, hand-sewed this snake body - and it was a glove puppet. It was so exquisite that we dimmed the lights and did this shadow dance with the glove puppet. We were all almost moved to tears by it.
We said to her on camera "You're not just a crafter, you are an artist." and this woman cried and said "No one's ever told me that I'm any good."
Keith: I think there's a good mix of crafters as well. There's people who are not as skilled as other people. Some of them are like artists - there's crafters and there's artists - and I think that's quite inspiring for viewers. They can go "I couldn't make that, but I'll have a go at making that that they've done."
Again, in this lockdown time where we've got nothing to do but buy masking tape and PVA glue from Amazon, it might inspire people to make something really good out of bubble wrap.
Anna: What's joyful about this show is that you have exquisitely made things and you've also got some things that are a bit DIY and a bit rough and ready. It's crafting! It doesn't matter. Some people are brilliant, some people are not so good, and it's just about using your hands. It's just the joy of doing it.
So at the end of the day some of it is astounding but also some of it is just quite funny and that's what's lovely about this show. It will bring a smile to your face. They're ordinary people with an extraordinary passion.
Have there been any disasters on the show?
Anna: Yeah, there have been a couple of near misses. As you'd expect with any time-pressured competition. When people start to run out of time, they start to make mistakes or realise that you'd forgotten to do something.
We've had bits fall off at the end with 30 seconds to go. We've had people burn themselves. I think everything that you would expect from this kind of show.
Each week one crafter does have to see their creation crushed and shredded in the recycling machine, how does that part of the show make you feel?
Keith: I think they get on off it. I think they do. I know that feeling. It's very cathartic to make something and then smash it to smithereens. It's a good feeling. If you've got the skills, you can just make it again can't ya? They knew it was gonna happen on this show so they knew what they were in for.
Anna, has taking part in the show made you want to do craft?
Anna: I've always been interested in Art & Design. I did Art O-Level, I went on to do my Art A-Level - but I got thrown off for being rude! So I kind of stopped at that point, making things, but I've always wanted to. I need someone to sit with me and show me.
Whereas Keith and Zac and Harriet, are really amazing people and really skilled, I'm kind of like the audience at home. But what I can do is I can knit a mean scarf/blanket. All I do is just keep on knitting until it just gets bigger and bigger!
So I can knit a bit, I can crochet a bit, I can block print a bit my own tea towels that I made for friends and family for Christmas, but I'm that basic person who needs a kit, I need to an online free tutorial, I need someone to sit with me and show me what to do. I love it, because for me, like Keith says, it keeps you really calm. You can just sit there and lose yourself for a couple of hours.
Keith: It's funny as well what people's idea of craft is. You're doing knitting and before I would have gone "That's not craft, it's knitting" and Zac was crochet king, so that's what he does and they must have looked at me and gone "He's making something out of bubble wrap?!" - everyone has a different interpretation of craft I guess.
What are you hoping people will take away from the show when they watch it?
Keith: To feel lovely and joyful and probably start crafting themselves. It's just a joyful, calming, lovely show. It's a lovely positive show. I guess people will go "I was surprised by Keith Lemon there, he didn't eff and jeff once did he?!"
It's a totally different avenue for me, which I really enjoyed. I feel really lucky that I can do naughty, late-night telly and I can do this at the same time. It's a really nice feeling.
Anna: Just to add to that, I think it's a lovely hour of positivity, it's absorbing, it's entertaining, there are few jeopardy moments and also you see a different side of Keith - as he's said - and interesting, calmer and knowledgeable side. I also think it's going to really really encourage people to go "Perhaps I'll have a go at it" or "I'm quite good at this, maybe I'll come on the show". That's what I think will happen.
Keith: Especially in these times you know, anything to cheer people up I guess. I didn't think I'd be bothered about cheering people up because I normally just have a laugh for myself, but I've been making YouTube videos and getting lovely messages that's made me think "Oh I've got to do a video today because it makes them feel nice." And it makes me feel nice, making people feel nice!
I always think that's selfish, but it doesn't matter because everyone feels nice! I think it'd be great to do a Halloween special and a Christmas special making - and I know it sounds a bit Blue Peter - but making some Christmas decorations or giving ideas for gifts.
Anna: Kirstie Allsopp on acid is basically what The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft is.
The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft starts Sunday at 8pm on Channel 4