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Crying in public is 'a sign of strength' says Great Pottery Throw Down judge Keith Brymer Jones

Keith Brymer Jones is well known for crying in the face of a great achievement by any of The Great Pottery Throw Down contestants.

Richard Miller, Keith Brymer Jones and Siobhán McSweeney on The Great Pottery Throw Down. Credit: Mark Bourdillon / Channel 4

Richard Miller, Keith Brymer Jones and Siobhán McSweeney on The Great Pottery Throw Down. Credit: Mark Bourdillon / Channel 4

It might be prompted by an especially beautiful tea set, or a particularly good bowl-making effort by The Great Pottery Throw Down contestants who compete to impress him in every episode of the Channel 4 hit show, but one thing we can be certain of each week is that we’ll see Keith Brymer Jones cry.

The Throw Down judge’s emotional outpourings have drawn much comment but is wrong to think that showing emotion is a weakness, he told The Big Issue. Crying on air is a “sign of strength”.

“Pottery is so fundamental to my life that I can’t help but get emotional about it,” added Brymer Jones.

“Showing that emotion on television is not a problem for me. A lot of people, especially males, see showing your vulnerable side as a weakness. I would beg to differ. I would say it’s exactly the opposite. It’s definitely a sign of strength to show your vulnerability and be the person you are and communicate that.”

After struggling with education due to his dyslexia – “in school in the ’80s, if you had dyslexia you were considered thick” – Brymer Jones discovered a love of clay when he was allowed to go and “play” in the art room.

He went on to train as a professional potter, while at the same time fronting a punk band called The Wigs. “I became more confident and more outgoing,” he said of his time as a singer.

After his apprenticeship, Brymer Jones started out hand-making ceramics for retailers including Habitat, Monsoon and Laura Ashley. He eventually went on to start his own company famous for beautiful, yet sweary, ceramics.

It was bereavement counselling following his mother’s death that put Brymer Jones in touch with his emotions. Her death, at the age of just 55, hit him hard.

“My mother died when I was about 27. For want of a better way of describing it, she’d become an alcoholic. Sherry was her thing, being very middle class and from Finchley,” he said.

“And then I started getting panic attacks. I never understood what a panic attack was before. How could your emotional state affect you physically? Then someone suggested that the panic attacks might be happening because your mother has just died and it’s traumatic.”

Brymer Jones said therapy not only helped him get through the grief, it also profoundly changed him as a person.

“I had bereavement counselling because I was pretty closed off to my emotional state. It did fundamentally change me or make me look at myself more as a whole person. Then I had quite a lot of therapy for about 10 years. It put me in touch with my emotional state and my emotional awareness,” he explained.

Keith Brymer Jones was speaking to The Big Issue for the weekly Letter To My Younger Self feature. The full interview is available in the magazine on the streets from January 23.

The Great Pottery Throw Down is on Channel 4 on Sundays at 7.45pm.

The Big Issue magazine exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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