The Great British Sewing Bee

At first glance quaintly old-fashioned, The Great British Sewing Bee is actually very much a product of its time. Before the crash, we had high-flying fashionistas Trinny and Susannah telling us the route to feeling better about ourselves was through designer shopping. But now the credit cards have been cut up and we’re all downsizing and upcycling, what more zeitgeisty a show could there be for the new make do and mend generation?

And lest you should arrive with any outrageously sexist notions that stitching is somehow women’s work, the standout star of this week’s third series opener was not only a man, but a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Mechanical Electrical Engineers, to boot. Neil, 46, has humped his sewing machine around war zones from Bosnia to Northern Ireland, so if he wants to spend his spare time running up a pair of shocking pink daisy-print ladies’ trousers, good luck to him.

The unflappable soldier scooped the coveted Garment of the Week honour by impressing the judges – moustachioed Savile Row smoothie Patrick Grant and WI doyenne May Martin – with his ‘outstanding spot matching’. Less successful was Annie, a dairy farmer from Scotland who suffered repeated wardrobe malfunctions, possibly because she spent more time talking to her ‘piggy pin cushion’ than concentrating on the job in hand. ‘I love piggy pin cushion,’ she sighed. ‘You can’t say piggy pin cushion too often.’ I beg to differ.

Presenter Claudia Winkleman seemed keen to introduce some Strictly-style sass into the proceedings, telling the contestants ‘You can all go home and cuddle up in bed together if you want’. But it’s not really that sort of show – the nearest you get to sexual tension on the Sewing Bee is the occasional use of the words ‘crotch’ and ‘bust’ (though Claud did get to utter the memorable line, “Boys and girls, step away from your trousers”).

Not surprisingly, it was Annie and piggy pin cushion who made an early exit. ‘Never mind,’ the defeated seamstress told Claud. ‘We’ll still name a calf after you.’ So if you’re north of the border and you spot a cow caked in eyeliner, you’ll know why.


TV extra:



Returning for a second series, this bittersweet comedy about the unlikely friendship between a shiftless failed musician and his neurotic teenage nephew remains an understated delight. Comedian and singer-songwriter Nick Helm is wonderfully disheveled as Andy, but it’s Elliott Speller-Gillott who steals the show as Errol, a kid whose best use of invisibility would be sneaking into the Natural History Museum, and who can’t eat scrambled eggs because ‘they don’t have definitive borders’. The episode ends with a musical number in a carpet shop. What’s not to like?


The Keith Lemon Sketch Show

A decade on from Bo Selecta!, Leigh Francis dons a new set of home-made prosthetics to poke fun at the celebrity class of 2015. His Holly Willoughby – all fake boobs and facial hair – is pure Kenny Everett, while Pharrell Williams gets the Craig David treatment, talking in a Yorkshire accent beneath a hat the size of a pedal bin. Your enjoyment of this puerile nonsense is probably dependent on how funny you find the idea of a very hairy man playing Sinitta. I’m rather ashamed to say I laughed a lot.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 12, 2015

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