Farewell, The Great Pottery Throw Down

The wholesome Reality TV series, from the creators of The Great British Bake Off, has been the perfect tonic to a dreary Winter in lockdown

Hosted by Siobhán McSweeney with Judges Keith Brymer Jones and Richard Miller

Despite its similarities with sister shows The Great British Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee, there simply isn’t a joy that equals the experience that comes from viewing The Great Pottery Throw Down. It follows twelve contestants that are gradually eliminated through a series of ambitious and mind-boggling challenges that stretch the amateur potters to their absolute limits. From throwing clay on a wheel to creating fountains, fruit bowls, sinks and functioning lamps, it is simply breathtaking to see what each contestant will produce on a weekly basis.

The unpredictability of the pottery process is something that is keenly felt throughout, where any contestants’ constructions may suddenly crack under the intense firing of the kiln, or the drying room. Not only are they expected to be brilliant artists, who sculpt and mould out of clay, but they also have to have a keen understanding of how to engineer these structures such that they can support the appropriate amount of weight. It is truly a marvel of both artistic and engineering skills that create the most successful outcomes.

Not only is everybody so talented, but there is really such a joyous sense of bonhomie about all of the contestants. Enhanced this series through the fact that all of the group have been bubbled together as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they really band around each other and even help with tense moments of the building process. You can genuinely sense the connection, not just between the contestants but also between them and the judges and hilarious host Siobhán McSweeney that means that, when a contestant is eliminated, it often feels like a sucker punch to the throat.

In contrast to other reality competitions where it feels like the contestants are set up to fail, there truly is a universal sense of love and passion about pottery. Judge Keith Brymer Jones is renowned for wearing his heart on his sleeve and regularly bursting into tears at the sight of the contestants’ finished products, purely because of the overwhelming sense of pride and joy that he gets from viewing them. It’s touching to see this level of love and excitement over a piece of art, and truly every contestant’s passion and joy for pottery is keenly felt and incredibly heartwarming.

When given a “technical” challenge, in which the potters are tasked with, for example, spinning a miniature tea-set, or creating bricks, it is wholly unlike the technical challenges in Bake Off. There is no Paul Hollywood skulking around, leaving cryptic and ambiguous recipes that set the amateur bakers up for failure, or raising his eyebrow to play mind games with them. Instead, either Keith or Richard Miller, the other judge, will demonstrate the required skills from the contestants and give them helpful pointers and pieces of advice. They are never trying to trip any of the competitors up to find fault, but there’s such a wonderful sense of support and community within the potting world.

It’s an honestly calming and wholesome hour to see everybody join together in the name of enjoying something that they all love and are good at. If there’s something that shows like Bake Off have forgotten in the wake of attempting to absorb more viewers is that shows like this should be about the joy and the love of what the contestants are making, not trying to create sensation or drama out of people’s stress or hurt. Something that has provided massively alienating about the Bake Off brand, in particular, is the extent to which Hollywood feels as if he is trying to undermine the bakers instead of buoying and supporting them with helpful advice. Brymer Jones and Miller, by contrast, are far more encouraging in their interactions with their potters, with critiques that are always constructive and continue to look for the positives in what has been created.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and the evening of Sunday 14th March will see the final instalment of The Great Pottery Throw Down for this year, where the final three potters will battle it out. However, should you have missed the series so far, it exists in its entirety on 4OD for your perusal. If you enjoy seeing the ignited fire of passion burning fervently behind a human’s eyelids, I thoroughly recommend The Great Pottery Throw Down. It is massively touching to see how much love and joy there is out there in the world, even when it is created from our own hands.

The Great Pottery Throw Down airs new episodes at 8pm on Sundays on Channel 4. You can catch up on 4OD.

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