Channel 4’s new craft show The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft is currently providing a welcome creative escape on Sunday evenings. Each week contestants stick, sew, hammer, whittle and craft creations in response to fantastical briefs from Leeds Arts University alumnus Leigh Francis, aka Keith Lemon.
Photo: Presenters of The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft - Keith Lemon and Anna Richardson
Leeds-born comedian, actor and director Keith spent four years studying art, design and graphic design at Leeds Arts University, then known as Jacob Kramer College. He has since become a household name through his shows Bo’ Selecta!, Celebrity Juice and The Keith & Paddy Picture Show. Here he recalls his time at the University and the inspiration for his character Avid Merrion.
What do you remember most fondly about studying at Leeds Arts University?
I just had a really fun time and made friends for life. I remember it being a wonderfully creative environment. I had some of the best times. I enjoyed it so much cos I was doing something I loved. Like telly! I’d hate to get up on a Monday morning and not want to go to work. When you’re passionate about something it isn’t work. That’s what art college felt like. Loved it!
How did studying in Leeds influence your future career?
I’m very visual with the stuff I do on telly and it all comes from my art background. I’m so lucky to be doing the Fantastical Factory on Channel 4. I guess my art background got me that gig. Even though they didn’t know I had an art background. It was all meant to be!
Photo: Keith Lemon's Leeds Arts University tutor Laimonis Mieriņš
Your character Avid Merrion is based on your Leeds art tutor Laimonis Mieriņš. Can you tell us more about him and the similarities?
Avid Merrion is an homage, a salute to a great man that I thought a lot of. An artistic Jedi! Laimonis Mieriņš is where the name and accent came from. Laimonis was a Latvian refugee who arrived in the UK in 1947. He studied at Leeds College of Art, as it was then, and Goldsmiths College of Art in London before returning to teach at the College from 1965 to 1994. He also gained international recognition as an artist in his own right.
The fabric neck brace that Avid wears represents the polo neck sweaters that Laimonis always wore, and his surname Merrion was taken from Mieriņš. Not from Leeds’ nearby Merrion shopping centre! I just couldn’t remember how to spell Mieriņš. Fine art is often seen as superior to craft.
Do you think craft should be given more kudos and studied more at University?
There are all different types of craft. That’s why everyone can do it. Some people just do it for fun. Some people take it to a level of artistry. I’m not sure if it should be studied. It should just be enjoyed or taken as seriously as you want it to be.
The Fantastical Factory Of Curious Craft is on Channel 4 until 14 June.