Jay Blades goes back to his roots in East End Through Time

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Tuesday: Jay Blades’ East End Through Time (Channel 5, 9pm)

This week’s award for the busiest man in TV goes to Jay Blades.

Not only is his journey through London concluding on Channel 5 tonight, he is also presenting a Repair Shop NHS Special on BBC One tomorrow night and Channel 4’s Britain’s Best Beach Huts alongside interior design expert Laura Jackson on Thursday.

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Not bad for a regular bloke from the East End, you could say.

Jay BladesJay Blades
Jay Blades

However, for all his TV projects over the past few years, you get the feeling this show, in which the 53-year-old furniture restorer returns to his roots and meets historians and local experts, is particularly special.

“Last year I made the series No Place Like Home where we looked at the area where I grew up but there was so much more that we didn’t delve into,” Jay said in an interview with What To Watch.

“So I was over the moon to go back and uncover more stories that were right on my doorstep.”

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Tonight’s programme begins as Jay talks to Dr Laura Schwartz.

She explains how Emmeline Pankhurst’s daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, set up a federation of suffragettes in East London which didn’t just campaign for the vote – it was also revolutionary in creating jobs and providing childcare for women in the area during the Second World War.

Then, in Canning Town, Jay sees beautiful photos showing how the area had become a melting pot even before the Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury Dock on June 22, 1948, as sailors and travellers from all over the world set up home there.

Sri Lankan born Kamal Chunchie was a leading member of the community and founded the ‘Coloured Men’s Institute’ in the 1920s to welcome and support people new to the area.

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Later in the programme, local historian Kate Thompson paints the picture of how Bethnal Green and other parts of East London coped with the blitz during the Second World War, often finding safety in the London Underground tunnels and platforms.

Meanwhile, 93-year-old Babs Clark tells the story of how 173 people were crushed to death in what was one of the worst civilian tragedies of the war.

Jay then meets former Krays firm member Chris Lambrianou at the notorious Blind Beggar pub.

Now a born-again Christian, he was present at the murder of Jack McVitie and he gives the host an insider’s take on the infamous Kray twins.

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Next, Jay heads to Brick Lane where locals tell him how the Bangladeshi community were subject to horrific abuse and violence from the National Front in the 1970s, and how it all came to a head in 1978 when 25-year-old Altab Ali was murdered.

And finally, Jay sees how parts of East London have been totally transformed in recent years.

He travels to Canary Wharf (‘the Manhattan of London’) and hears what the development meant for locals on the Isle of Dogs.

Quite a few of them, like a certain Mr Blades, seem to be doing alright for themselves.