The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades has said he was called racist names at school – but he did not know what they meant.
The furniture restorer and host of the BBC One show discussed his upbringing in Hackney, east London, in an interview with The Big Issue.
The 51-year-old said: “I suffered a lot of racism in secondary school. I went to a school that was predominantly white, and I was one of the first wave of black kids.
“I got called loads of different names and I didn’t know what they meant. I grew up in Hackney, and I didn’t see racism there at all.
“We had black, white, Asian, everything. What we had in common was that we were poor, and that was it.”
Blades was raised by his single parent mother but said he did not feel he was missing out on a father figure.
He said: “I didn’t really know my dad much but I didn’t feel I was missing out because there were a lot of single parents where I was growing up.
“I think I knew three couples that were together. I don’t remember seeing too many men in my estate.
“I call him the man that contributed towards my birth, I don’t call him my father.”
After leaving school, Blades worked in a number of jobs, including in a frozen sausage factory, a bottle factory and a Christmas card factory, before retraining aged 29.
He recalled having to ration his food while living in Luton as a 19-year-old.
He said: “There is one moment I’d like to go back to and tell myself, things are going to get better. I was 19 and living in Luton.
“And I remember saying to myself, ‘OK, I’ve got five tomatoes, they’re gonna last me for the whole week. I can have quarter a tomato for breakfast, a quarter for lunch, and a full half for dinner’.
“On the fourth day that week I got a job in McDonald’s. But I got sacked after about three days, because I ate too many burgers while I was working.
“That was a really low point. I’d like to go back and tell myself it’ll get better than that.”
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