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BBC programme showcases neon and signwriting

Sir David Jason and Jay Blades have tried their hands at neon glass bending at Neon Creations

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[L to R] Tony Spink, Sam Beresford, Sir David Jason, Donna Taylor, Catherine Spink, and Jay Blades

Neon Creations, a maker of traditional neon signs and art pieces, has discussed its latest appearance on BBC programme- David & Jay’s Touring Toolshed, starring Sir David Jason and Jay Blades MBE.

All episodes of the craft and tool series are currently available on BBC iPlayer with episodes also airing weekly on BBC Two.

The series features Jason of Only Fools and Horses fame and Blades known for BBC’s hit series, The Repair Shop, who both present the series all about finding “talented tinkerers”. 

The series utilises Blades’ and Jason’s passion for fixing and restoring vintage items with the latter said to ‘love spending time in his toolshed’.

Episode two, which is partly based at the Kelsall Steam Festival in Cheshire also sees Jason and Blades visit Neon Creations in Bolton, where they tried firsthand bending glass for neon signs.

The visit came about after Neon Creations was approached by the BBC to demonstrate glass bending on the show but co-founder Tony Spink advised the production company that they needed the impact of the workshop and different signs to sell the experience of making neon creations. 

Speaking to SignLink, Spink says: “It was bizarre to see and experience but certainly enjoyable and really good as we’ve had so much support from customers, viewers, and others in the industry.”

The programmes also featured the art of signwriting as signwriter Kerri Williams helped a restoration enthusiast add artwork to the back of a 1948 restored bus.

Interestingly the programme transitioned into its neon segment by describing the craft as a “more up to date form of signwriting” despite the craft being over 100 years old.

Camera crew film Spink and Beresford explaining the sign-making process to Jason and Blades

Spink appeared with glass bending apprentice, Sam Beresford, who both showed Jason and Blades how to bend glass over an open flame with the objective of making a ‘Touring Toolshed’ neon sign.

Spink explains: “They were both really interested, asking questions in between filming, and giving everything a lot of thought. It was clear they were craft-minded people.

“It was surreal having people of that level be so interested in what you do and asking questions, it was absolutely fascinating and beautiful as they made sure to take the time to talk to us and give us advice and support on our continuing efforts to promote traditional neon.”

Recently Neon Creations has sought the help of the industry and different organisations to stress that neon sign-making is an endangered craft and needs to be differentiated from LED alternatives.

At the end of the episode the narrator highlights this work by saying: “Tony has been campaigning to make neon signage a heritage craft, so that only signs made in the traditional way can be called neon signs.”

Following filming the team has had continued support and advice from Blades who is co-chair of the Heritage Crafts charity.

Upon his appointment in 2022, Blades said: “I am delighted to be appointed co-chair of Heritage Crafts alongside David Clarke; a man I have huge admiration for who shares my passion for the Association. Together we have big plans to further raise the profile of Heritage Crafts and ensure pathways for a new generation of craftspeople.”

Spink adds: “You can see people’s enthusiasm when they see a straight piece of glass become something all together different. That’s what we have to do, we’re educating everyone and offering training to promote what we do.”

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email at news@signlink.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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