A Bradford shoemaker made his television debut on BBC1’s The Repair Shop to take on the important task of repairing the precious pair of running shoes that sprinted athlete Audrey Brown to silver in the 4x100m relay at the Olympics of Berlin in 1936, in front of Adolf Hitler.
Dean Westmoreland, whose Yorkshire Sole shoe repair company is located in Shipley Market Square, looked after the running spikes for Audrey’s grandson Tom Wenham of Ilkley, a former England lacrosse player who coaches the GB Men’s lacrosse team.
Audrey raced for the Birchfield Harriers in Birmingham and has championed women in the sport. She died in 2005 at the age of 92 and left the precious custom-made leather spikes wrapped in a tea towel to Tom, but they were so badly damaged he didn’t dare touch them.
Viewers in the repair shop saw him nearly lost sight of and visibly moved when expert shoemaker Dean presented him with the restored shoes, after working on the 85-year-old leather he described as “very thirsty.”
Before the show aired, Dean, who lives in Clayton, said he would watch The Repair Shop with his fiancee, Leigh, and sons Oscar, six, and Otis, four.
His first thought when he saw the running shoes was “Can I really fix them?”
He told the Yorkshire Post: “I always like a challenge. I thought they were going to turn to dust, but you could see that they were well made, so I thought they could bear to be fixed.
Nonetheless, it was a challenge, he admits. “I was taken aback by the old fiber construction. There were a few tricky parts, but everyone participated.
He too was moved by Tom’s reaction to the restored shoes. “When you know the story it adds a lot of weight,” he said. “The emotion you see on camera is real. Nobody acts.
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“For me, it’s all about the detail,” Dean says. “Using hand tools, hand sewing and treating every pair of shoes like mine. All this and more seemed to have been forgotten.
There will be more challenges for Dean in future episodes of The Repair Shop. Tomorrow night, Jay Blades and his team tackle a rare historical painting, a vintage sewing machine, a Beatles memento from the Swinging Sixties, and a broken stained glass window.
* The Repair Shop airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on BBC One or BBC iPlayer.