Jay Blades reflects on Hackney’s historical links to slavery
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Jay Blades is going on a deep dive back into his childhood and where he grew up in his new Channel 5 show Jay Blades: No Place Like Home. Episode one of the three-part documentary series took Jay back to his doorstep as he walked in his mother’s footsteps to market, discovered that he grew up not far from where the notorious Kray twins reigned and found out about air raids during the First World War. His discovery into Hackney’s slave trade was too much for the star.
The show started off with Jay learning that Hackney used to be a village and suburb that was once looked upon highly.
For him, it had a “stigma”, and when looking for a job in his youth, he mentioned “you would not put your address” down, so potential employers didn’t know where you came from.
Speaking to historian Katie Donington while visiting a building he used to walk past as a child but never went in, he discovered the disturbing links between Hackney and slavery that went as far as where his family hailed from in Barbados and Jamaica
Jay asked: “Is there a connection between Hackney’s slave owners and Barbados or Jamaica?”
Katie replied: “Yeah, absolutely. There are people who were involved in slave ownership. There were people in Hackney who owned enslaved people all across the Caribbean.”
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The historian went on to list people in history who owned slaves and mentioned a clergyman, Reverend Stephen Isaacson, who tried to tell the people of East London that enslaved people lived happy, fulfilled lives and had a better way of living than most “working-class people in Britain”.
She also spoke about the currency and “product of slavery – sugar”.
Jay added: “Now you mention about sugar, I never even made that connection, but a lot within the Caribbean community, we love sugar.”
Katie chimed in: “High level of diabetes as a result.”
Their conversation highlighted how slaves would work hard to refine the sugar to be sent elsewhere and also become somewhat addicted to it while they worked.
Katie described how a very sugar-heavy diet for some Caribbean cultures is part of that “lingering culture that is developed through slavery”.
Clearly taken back by this newfound knowledge, The Repair Shop host paused while he got his head around it and all and said: “You know what you have made me want to do? Give up sugar. And I love sugar.
“It’s almost as if I have just been hit by a bus. I’m just feeling oomph!”
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His newfound “awareness” made him question the areas in which he played as a child.
He concluded: “I used to think of Hackney in a really good light, now it’s too much linked to slavery, too much.
“And then you’re a descendant of that. It doesn’t sit comfortably. I’m quite disgusted by it.”
Viewers of the show felt Jay was the perfect host for the programme, with @SandieB98242155 saying: “Hooked ten minutes in!”
@joannem5569 said: “Enjoying #NoPlaceLikeHome with @jayblades lots of fond memories having grown up in Hoxton. I never had much, but it was a great place to live back in the day.”
@irunthings4real couldn’t speak highly enough about the TV star and commented: “@jayblades_ the best TV presenter on telly right now. No competition at all.”
Flippin’ love @jayblades_what an awesome, moving deep dive into his history #noplacelikehome is. Love his glasses too,” @AJPendleton proclaimed.
Jay Blades: No Place Like Home continues on Channel 5 on Tuesdays.
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