Julie and Amanda, also affectionally known as The Teddy Bear Ladies, are firm favourites on BBC1’s hit TV programme The Repair Shop, having been a part of the team since it started in 2017. You only have to watch them work their magic repairing bears and toys, combined with their unique bond to see why…
Words: Ruth Sax
How long have you known each other for and how did you meet?
Julie: Amanda and I met in late 2006; I had recently opened a collectible teddy bear shop and craft shop workshop in Beaulieu in the New Forest. Amanda was making teddy bears and designing them herself and she bought them to me to see if I would be prepared to sell them in the shop.
Which of course I did, but on the understanding that she would come in and work in the shop a couple of times a month so that customers could see what went into making something so beautifully handcrafted. She was soon there every day!
Amanda: She couldn’t get rid of me! But we hit it off straightaway – there was definitely an instant bond there and the rest is history really.
How and when did you become Christians?
Amanda: I consider myself a ‘baby Christian’. I got baptised in 2018. Prior to that I’d been going to church for about a year; I did the Alpha course, which was amazing. I think my faith has always been there; I just wasn’t ready to commit. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that. I had Julie drip feeding little bits of knowledge and praying for me for years beforehand.
I vividly remember my brother and his family, who have been Christians for many years, one year inviting me to church for a Christmas Eve service and I felt so at home there. I really enjoyed the evening and remember asking my brother afterwards: “Can I come again?”
I think that was when I knew: “I’m going to do this now.” So it’s quite nice to know something like that can come out of something as simple as inviting somebody to a carol service or another event at the church.
Julie: I have two children from a previous marriage and my church commitment when the children were little was simply making sure the children went to a Christingle service. Like Amanda, I always felt that there was maybe something there, but didn’t have the time to find out more.
Then my first marriage broke down. I met my now husband, Colin, and we got married in 1996. We had a further two children and, after the birth of our first son, we decided that we should look into whether or not we were going to have him christened. We joined a local church, did the Alpha course, made some good friends and committed our lives to God in 1997/98.
The repair of a childhood toy can be part of a journey of healing for many people
How did you end up working on The Repair Shop?
We were approached by Ricochet, the production company that makes The Repair Shop and were a bit hesitant at first as we had never done anything like that before. We wanted to make sure the show would be serious about repair and restoration. When we saw those behind it were, we prayed about it and then said yes.
We love how it’s given permission for adults in particular to have that bond with their bears or their toys from childhood – we never judge anyone’s attachment to any item.
What do you love about working with teddy bears?
Amanda: Teddy bears are special items connecting us to our childhood that have stood the test of time. Children have so many electronic toys and fabulous things they can play with nowadays, but every child wants a soft toy. There is comfort, there’s love, all wrapped up into that little fluffy bundle.
It’s something that stays with you from childhood through to adulthood and to be able to repair that special item for somebody else, who’s really worried their bear is not going to survive, is a way of showing God’s light through an act of kindness. Julie and I have been given a gift and to be able to use that gift to help others through the vehicle of restoring teddy bears is extra special.
Julie: The repair of a childhood toy can be part of a journey of healing for many people, and through our gift we are able to be part of that journey.
What is your most memorable bear repair and why?
Julie: Very often it isn’t the bear that is the most memorable, but the person who brings in the item that makes it memorable. That is because of the story behind the bear. One of our most memorable repairs on the show was ‘Wheelie Ted’, who we fixed a few years ago, because the lady who owned him was so inspirational.
She had cerebral palsy as a child and she was so, so strong; she went on and had children and a career. I mean, she was just so inspirational, and the bear had helped her to walk when she was a child.
How has your life changed since being on The Repair Shop?
Amanda: We do get recognised when we are out and about now. This year we were at and a lady came up to me and said: “Oh I know you from somewhere, do you work at my local Co-Op?” I replied: “No, you might recognise us from The Repair Shop” and she couldn’t believe it; she was so excited!
How do you share your faith?
Julie: We both pray a lot on set, people know we are Christians, but we are just ourselves and hope that shines through. We’re very open, if anybody asks, so they all know we’re Christians, but we don’t preach to them. When we were filming during COVID, Amanda and I were watching an Easter service and some of the crew came to listen as they could hear the music.
It’s lovely that both Amanda and I share the same faith, and it definitely helps on a day-to-day basis being able to pray together.
Do people know who is who when they meet you?
Both: Sometimes, but very often they get us muddled up. Down at the barn we are affectionally known as ‘the bears’.
People know we are Christians, but we are just ourselves and hope that shines through
Who is most likely to laugh when they are not supposed to? Amanda.
Who is most likely to cause mischief on set? Both of us (laughing simultaneously).
Do you both have your own bear collections and do you have a favourite bear?
Amanda: Yes, we both have lots of bears. My favourite is a polar bear that my Grandad gave to me in 1968 called Pippa-Luck. I have to say he isn’t the original Pippa, as he got lost – Julie found another one for me on eBay, because I was devastated when I lost him. Also, there is Tom Boot who my Grandad made for me; he’s another of my favourites. Keep your eyes peeled for Tom Boot, because he will be appearing in a book we are writing at the moment.
What does Christmas mean to you and how will you be spending it?
Julie: I love Christmas; I love the preparations for Christmas, I love trying to gather as much family together as I can. I think it’s family and togetherness and the chance to slow down as well that I love. For me it’s a very thoughtful time to restock, before moving onto a new year. To reflect on the meaning of it and remember the gift that is Jesus.
Amanda: I love the run up to Christmas, I love giving presents, it makes me really, really happy. Christmas Day is a peaceful time of reflection for me and now I go to church on Christmas Day too.
What prayer do you have for 2023:
Amanda: I pray that 2023 is a new beginning for many people. We are told as Christians we can always start again; we sin all the time, but we can start again, and God will forgive us. I pray that things will start getting better for so many people; that this new year ahead will be the start of new beginnings for so many.
The Repair Shop is a BBC TV series that sees family heirlooms restored for their owners by experts, led by furniture restorer Jay Blades.