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Great Pottery Throwdown host Keith Brymer Jones shouts out Dundee shop ahead of Perth gig

Keith Brymer Jones opens up on how he and partner Marj Hogarth make their relationship work on the road as he brings his live show to Perth Concert Hall.

Keith Brymer Jones is set to appear at Perth Concert Hall. Image: Supplied.
Keith Brymer Jones is set to appear at Perth Concert Hall. Image: Supplied.

Keith Brymer Jones doesn’t know where he is.

Luckily, his partner and “best friend” Marj Hogarth is there to keep him right.

The Great Pottery Throwdown host has found himself in the “weird” position of having a day to himself on tour.

Or so he thinks, until the scheduling gods make an error and some annoying journalist calls him up to talk shop.

But Keith is a true gent and cheerfully wanders off in search of a quiet place to speak, announcing: “Now is actually a great time, because I’m in a castle! Somewhere in Northumberland, I think!”

“Warkworth Castle!” I hear Marj chuckle in the background. “On the Northumberland coast.”

Keith Brymer Jones and his partner Marj Hogarth at Warkworth Castle, Northumberland. Image: Supplied.

Even over the phone, the pair’s chemistry is palpable – which Keith says is “just as well”, since they are travelling together, working together, performing together and doing life together.

Don’t they ever find it hard, balancing the relationship with work?

Keith Brymer Jones cracks jokes on and off stage with partner Marj Hogarth. Image: Fane Productions.

“We just get on really well,” says Keith earnestly.

“I’ve got my best friend with me all year round. It’s brilliant.”

And it’s clear that spontaneous adventures like this one to Warkworth Castle are part and parcel of life on the road for the pair, as they tour Keith’s live show across the UK.

“We drive for England when we’re on tour,” laughs Keith. “And Wales, and Scotland!

“It’s one of the things we love about it. We find ourselves in weird and wonderful places, which is great!”

Should’ve gone to Spex Pistols

And as they make their way to Perth Concert Hall, eyewear enthusiasts Keith and Marj are looking forward to stopping off at one particular Dundee shop.

“We’re going to stop in at Spex Pistols and get some glasses,” Keith says. “Marj says they’re the best, and she’s been all over the place.”

The staff of Spex Pistols outside the shop. Image: Supplied.

This year’s tour sees Keith and Marj take to the stage in conversation about Keith’s life both behind and in front of his potter’s wheel, including being a dancer, the frontman of an almost-famous band, a production potter, and of course a judge on Throwdown.

It follows their smash-hit sell-out 22-date tour in 2023.

“I was blown away by the success of it,” admits Keith.

“It’s just a great way of meeting like-minded people, because the people that have come to the show are often interested in the craft of pottery.

“They usually know me from Throwdown,” he explains.

“For crying!” Marj teases.

Keith Brymer Jones Live on stage with his partner Marj Hogarth. Image: Fane Productions.

It’s true, Keith is known for his teary displays of emotion on Throwdown. For contestant potters, making Keith cry is like getting a handshake from Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood.

But he hasn’t always worn his feelings on his clay-covered sleeve.

“It’s strange,” he says. “I actually haven’t always been like that at all. But when it comes to pots, and especially on the show, it is quite emotional.

“I know how hard it is to create something that’s just truly in your head.

“I can see in their faces the joy and relief that they’ve actually produced something remotely nice, and it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Potter worked so hard he saw knuckle bone

For Keith, ‘throwing’ (making pottery on a wheel) is almost a form of meditation.

“It’s probably the only time I am actually in the moment, when I sit down on the wheel,” he says. “It’s incredibly meditative and cathartic.

“Marj says I get a bit funny if I don’t touch clay for a few days!”

And clay has been “a great companion” to Keith since he was 11 years old.

Keith Brymer Jones shares his joy with pottery on stage. Image: Fane Productions.

Growing up with dyslexia during a time where it wasn’t well understood by educators, he found that working with clay in art class was a way he could excel in school.

“At school in the 80s you were basically just considered thick if you had dyslexia,” he explains. “But actually, it’s just a different way of looking at the world.

“In fact, if I wasn’t dyslexic, I doubt if I’d be making making pots today. Because when you’re dyslexic, you have a much better affinity with shape, form and volume.

“I think that’s why I took to it so so easily and so quickly.”

But that’s not to say being a potter has always been easy.

As a production thrower, Keith says he would regularly throw between 600-900 pots daily on a wheel while blasting “gay pop” and disco hits like Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.

And he reveals he would often work his hands to the bone – literally.

“When you throw pottery, you have what’s called throwing knuckle, which you use to pick off the clay and pull it up the side of the pot,” he explains.

“Back in the day, the skin would wear down and you’d see all the way to the bone. Which is fun!”

Keith’s past as ballet-dancing punk rocker

Mind you, Keith’s never been a stranger to discipline.

As well as learning pottery from age 11, he trained in ballet, tap, Scottish Country and Highland dancing all the way from three years old to finishing school at 18.

“You wouldn’t believe it, I mean look at the state of me now,” he chuckles.

But after 15 years of dedication, he was refused entry to the Royal Ballet School.

“It was quite evident that I wasn’t going to get in,” he recalls. “Not because of my technical attributes, but because of my size.

“I was very tall and lanky and thin back in the day, and that wasn’t what they were looking for.”

However, a lifetime of dance meant he was “never averse to a stage” and pivoted from dance to become the lead singer in 80s punk band The Wigs.

The height of the band’s success was when their 1986 track 6 O’Clock Shuffle hit No1 in Northern France.

But Keith realised that “being in a band is just a world of disappointment” and became a potter instead.

“If you’re successful all the time, you actually become a bit of a t****r,” he observes. “I often describe my life as a series of mistakes with successes on the way. My first marriage, that was a mistake!

“But you learn from those mistakes and that’s what makes you a real person.”

Adele parody got Keith his Throwdown gig

Famously, Keith ended up as a judge on Throwdown after ‘Rolling Clay With Keith’, his own pottery-themed spoof cover of Adele’s hit song Rolling In the Deep, caught the attention of the Channel 4 show’s head producer.

“He was in America at the time,” Keith recalls. “And he phoned me up from America and said: ‘Oi, do you want to be a judge on this Pottery Throwdown?'”

Keith Brymer Jones, Siobhan McSweeney and Rich Miller. Image: Channel 4.

At first, Keith turned down the role.

“I thought pottery on telly would be really boring, like watching paint dry,” he admits as he gears up for Throwdown’s eight season.

“I didn’t realise that with the power of editing, it would turn out to be absolutely brilliant.”

Now at 58, Keith is a household name with almost 3 million viewers each week on telly.

Even Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt has made no secret of how much he loves the show, and Keith.

“That’s the thing isn’t it?” Keith laughs. “You put something out there and you have no idea who’s watching!

“He’s a really big fan, which is lovely, so we’ll get him up to the chapel at some point.”

One man’s nightmare is Keith’s chapel dream

The chapel in question would be the 160-year-old derelict church in Wales that Keith and Marj are restoring, in a journey documented by another Channel 4 show, Our Welsh Chapel Dream.

With a pigeon infestation, heaps of dry rot and a community to win over, it’s been no easy job.

Keith Brymer Jones, host of The Great Pottery Throwdown. Image: Supplied.

But it seems that, as with most things the pair take on, optimism and cheerfulness is the fuel which gets them through.

“It’s incredible when you when you take on an old building, it throws up all kinds of different things that you wouldn’t necessarily think it was going to do,” Keith says.

“But I’ve got a saying in my life that I often use: A pessimist’s problem is an optimist’s opportunity.

“You can always turn something around to a positive. And believe me, when you’re a potter, that’s a good thing to do.”

Keith Brymer Jones is live in conversation at Perth Concert Hall on June 17 2024.