17 November 2020

Kirstie Allsopp: Crafting is a solace

17 November 2020

Kirstie Allsopp hangs up on me not once, but twice, during our phone interview. But I don’t mind one bit, because not only is the  London-born TV presenter, 49, hugely apologetic, she’s great value, whizzing between all sorts of topics; hair masks, Coronavirus, the perils of social media…

As for her TV work, fans of the crafting queen – most famous for her property programmes with Phil Spencer, including Location, Location, Location – will be delighted to hear we’re getting a double dose of her Christmas cheer on Channel 4 this year.

In Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick and Easy Craft – a one-off programme airing at primetime – she is joined by Spencer, to create some cocktail magic. Meanwhile, her sister, florist Sofie, helps with some festive floral displays, and baker Nancy Birtwhistle reveals some of her favourite recipes, tips and tricks. “We made that in February and now, of course, we’re thrilled, because we have got this one very sparkly, very warm show where everyone is incredibly relaxed and it’s just very genuine,” notes Allsopp, who’s strikingly posh (her father is British peer and businessman Charles Henry Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlip; her mum, Lady Fiona Hindlip, died from breast cancer in 2014).

Her other show airing this month is Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, a daytime series which will air Monday to Fridays for two weeks. She is once again joined by Spencer – who tries his hand at ice sculpting, woodworking, and metalwork – and it also features a daily competition in which we see four of the country’s best crafters battle it out to be crowned champion. The series was filmed in early October, and Allsopp recalls how they had to “jump through massive hoops” because of Covid-19 restrictions – including filming in an open-sided marquee, which was “cold and damp”.

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I suggest it must have been frustrating to not be able to make TV in the normal way right now, and although Allsopp is a little careful at first with her reply, it’s clear she agrees. “How it works with filming craft is that it’s often very detailed on the small stuff, so I will be working on something, or the crafter will be working on something, and the cameraman will get very close. And that’s not possible with social distancing.”

She continues: “It was obviously very, very different and quite… slow. And, er, there were times when you just wanted to scream.” Animated Allsopp doesn’t hide her exasperation as she goes on to describe in length just how cold it was.

But, she adds, she’s “glad for the crafters. I’m obviously glad for the work, and for the crew and the production company. Everybody needs to work. And, there’ll be something new on telly!”

When we chat, it’s a few days before nationwide lockdown measures are re-introduced in England. Allsopp isn’t afraid to share her opinions on Covid-19 on her Twitter account; recently her focus has been on the impact it’s having on children’s and adolescents’ mental health, and issues of isolation for new mums. She does sometimes face a backlash for her tweets. When, for example, back in the summer, she suggested that office workers who are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic need to “prove their worth” to employers in order to keep their jobs, she found herself defending and explaining her comments.

She’s also made headlines for clashing with Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan on the social media site too. “Ooh yes, we don’t talk about him,” she quips hastily, when I bring Morgan up. Asked if she ever has regrets about what she tweets, she muses: “You can’t live with regret. We all know we all make mistakes and therefore if you’re going to engage, you’re going to sometimes make mistakes. That’s a given.”

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What about trolls on Twitter – how does she handle hurtful comments from them? “I really don’t want to say this because it’s like, it will drag them out from underneath – but I am amazingly untouched.”

“But I am shocked when I do see it happen to people I know,” she continues. “A lot of it is profoundly misogynistic.”

Allsopp – a self-confessed “control freak” – knows all too well about how people are struggling with their mental health during such a turbulent year. But, “crafting is a huge help” and “it’s not a niche, middle-class thing,” she professes. “That was one thing that was very clear out of lockdown; people really saw that all sorts of people craft and it can really, really help,” she elaborates.

“It [Coronavirus] can be very muddling, very confusing. [There are] lots of different messages; you’ll hear that one minister says this and another minister says this and you’re promised this won’t happen, and this does happen. It’s sometimes really hard for people. But crafting is a solace, to just have a bit of clear brain time.”

Kirstie’s Christmas: Quick and Easy Craft airs on Channel 4 on Sunday, November 22. Watch Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas weekdays for two weeks from Monday, November 30.

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