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The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft: 'I think this is an idea which works even without us being locked in'

If you're up for being transported into a world of pure imagination, check out C4's new crafting series. Gemma Dunn reports


Anna Richardson and Keith Lemon in The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft

Anna Richardson and Keith Lemon in The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft

Anna Richardson and Keith Lemon in The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft

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 - commissioned by Studio Ramsay - offers viewers a window into the world of craftmanship by challenging skilful competitors to create prop-like, mic-drop makes of epic proportions.

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

"It's like we're evil geniuses - it's like Walt Disney brought out Disney+ just at the right time," Lemon (47) quips.

"It will give people something to do if they're interested in craft, but it's a nice idea that would work even if we weren't locked in."

"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," 49-year-old Richardson agrees.

"And what's so nice about it is that it features ordinary people, who just happen to be able to do something creative and extraordinary - and it's family viewing, so you can have mum, dad, kids and grandparents watching this, going, 'I can do that, let's have a crack!'"

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.

Expect the likes of Nick Grimshaw, Mel B, Eamonn Holmes, Martin Kemp, Katherine Ryan and Spencer Matthews and Vogue Williams to star.

As for the tasks at hand, there's everything from a 3D model of Lemon's head to a mythical creature puppet.

"This guy called Samuel came in chopping wood - he looked like Ashton Kutcher, so he is going to be so popular with the ladies," recalls Lemon.

"He literally came in with a lump of wood and an axe," 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.

"My favourite make was by Ann, a very beautiful, self-effacing Taiwanese girl," adds the Naked Attraction host. "She created this porcelain hand puppet, so she stitched the robes, created a porcelain Chinese head and hand painted her face - in four hours. It was exquisite."

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 as such. I've been using something called Super Sculpey," he reveals.

"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 original designs by Keith, who 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," Lemon says. "But on Celebrity Juice, nine times out of 10 I'm slightly drunk - and then on this it's just genuinely being interested in people creating things and genuinely gossiping with Anna Richardson from Naked Attraction.

"All my mates that know me, they were like, 'This show is made for you!'"

"What's interesting about Keith on this is you see a much softer, kinder, more interested, less ADHD side to him," teases 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," Lemon offers. "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," Richardson adds.

"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."

Does the process help Lemon in a similar way?

"It hasn't helped me as such, or maybe it has, and I just don't know it, because it relaxes me when I am making things or drawing things," he responds, having recently launched a YouTube channel called Keith Lemon's Doings.

"I just feel like I've beaten the world when I make something out of nothing - it's exciting," he adds.

"But I don't suffer from depression or anything, because my mind is always filled with things that I'm going to do, other than telly," he adds.

"Crafting does have this image of doing it by yourself in a bedroom and I would say slightly geeky. I hope that this show makes crafting cool."

The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft, Channel 4, Sunday, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph