What is it that’s so satisfying about watching amateurs making a meringue swan, or painting a landscape, or glazing a clay pot? Maybe it’s enjoying the passion and intensity with which enthusiasts work, even in the presence of snarky, intimidating judges? Or maybe it’s the charm of well-chosen contestants, all quirky and endearing in their own way? Or maybe it’s the audience’s empathy with someone who just wants to put their heart and soul into creating something?
Whatever it is, BBC2’s new show The Great Pottery Throw Down, strikes gold again. Closely following the recipe of The Great British Bake Off, it can be seen as comfortingly familiar or annoyingly samey, depending on your viewpoint.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch such a same-format-different-ovens show, but the clincher for me was a moment towards the end of the first episode where one of the judges burst into tears.
One of the judges.
It wasn’t the kind of camera-2-on-me crocodile tears that are all the rage on talent shows like The X-Factor (don’t get me started, I can’t bear it). This was genuine emotion, made all the more surprising when it came from the judge who was presented in the ruthless Paul Hollywood/Simon Cowell role. Even more extraordinary was the fact that he was overcome because he was so pleased that the most nervous of the contestants had conquered her fears and accomplished her task competently. It showed a generosity of spirit that made me want to watch again.
And that’s the thing with creativity. Although the world loves a competition, it’s important to remember that there’s room enough for everyone to have their own creative niche, and to be supportive of and happy for others who succeed in making something unique.