She’s been a rare Bristolian voice on primetime TV and a lockdown delight, as she discovered how our favourite snacks were made.
But now ten years after she moved to London to seek fame and fortune, Jayde Adams is coming home.
And, as she reflects on that time of upheaval and grief a decade ago, and her journey from tentative stand-up to bona fide TV person, Jayde Adams has more reasons than most to be back in the place she calls home.
“I can’t describe it, it’s like a vibe. It’s a special place,” said the presenter of TV shows like Snackmasters and Crazy Delicious.
“But that’s not coming from someone from London who loves it in Bristol, thinks it’s ‘cool’ and moves there – I’m from Bristol, have a longing to be back in Bristol, to be around actual Bristolians again. It’s like that Welsh thing ‘hiraeth’, you can’t describe it, I just need to be there.
“I’ve been away, really, since I was 18, and I just want to be somewhere where, when I talk out loud, people won’t say ‘oohh don’t you sound funny’. “Bristolians just have this brilliant and different outlook, a different sense of humour, it’s quite a dark sense of humour. I just love the Bristol mentality, it’s very different – you work hard under difficult circumstances, get on with it and laugh about it. It’s who I am, I don’t have to excuse my accent anywhere in Bristol, I can be myself,” she added.
If there was any doubt about making the return back to her home city, they were dispelled at a recent gig – her first standup in Bristol since the pandemic – at the Wardrobe Theatre. “I am not blowing my own trumpet or nothing, but no word of a lie I had a two minute standing ovation before I’d even said anything. It was amazing. I told them I was moving back in that gig and everyone cheered, it was lovely.
“The other weird thing is that I don’t really get recognised in London, I can walk down the street and people don’t look at you or anyone. Here I’ll be sat on my mum and dad’s wall and people will come up and say ‘aren’t you that one off the telly’.
“I just thought it was time. All this time recently I’ve been in London and Bristol has been trending on Twitter for all these brilliant, amazing reasons, and I just thought I have to come back. Plus, all the family are here,” she added.
After heading to London in November 2010, Jayde is returning to Bristol in that good position of being able to because she’s becoming so successful, rather than returning having failed. While London is still the place to make it, because it’s where all the contacts, gigs, scene, agents, producers and bookers are, she’s now in that privileged position of not having to be in London anymore. She’s made it enough to not need to be there.
“I am in that position now,” she said. “I mean, I’m still getting there – I’m not a proper household name yet, but I’ve got a lot of stuff lined up for the next year or so and in any case, it’s literally an hour and 45 minutes from what will be my front door to my agents office in London, where I do all my writing.
“It’s also easy to get from Bristol to somewhere like Elstree where everything is filmed. And I love a train journey, plus I get to have a bigger house than I could ever afford in London,” she laughed.
Jayde was a young woman trying to get into stand-up comedy in Bristol back in 2010. By the November of that year, she’d decided, like many Bristolians before her, that if she was going to make it, it would have to be 120 miles east in London.
But after just one proper stand up gig in London in the March the following year, tragedy struck the weeks later in April 2011, with the death of her sister. A few years earlier, her sister Jenna had been diagnosed with a high-grade brain tumour. She was just 26 at the time, with Jayde, two years younger and still in university. The diagnosis came out of the blue.
The treatment continued, and it was around Jenna’s hospital bed that Jayde learned she should be a stand-up comedian – encouraged by Jenna.
“When she was diagnosed, she grabbed my hand and said: ‘can you keep making everyone laugh, Jayde? Lighten it up a bit’, and that sort of became my job as she was going through the treatment.”
Then, in April 2011, Jenna suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed with a seizure and the family rushed to her bedside.
“It always sounds trite when I say it like this, but it’s true. It was around my sister’s deathbed where I was making everyone laugh, that I knew that I should be a comedian. If you can make people laugh in that situation, then I knew I had this gift, if I can make my family laugh then. It was like ‘that’s what I’ve been put on the planet to do’. I mean, I’m not an angel, I’m not a saint, but I can make people laugh,” she added.
It took another three years of slogging away on the comedy circuit in her spare time from a range of jobs before she had her first big breakthrough, and it came at the right time.
“I’d had my first stand up gig in London on March 17, 2011 and my sister died on April 24, 2011. She’d been sick for a while, but it was a huge shock. It happened at a time when I was really just starting out and what I happened was I stayed in London and kept working and working but really I was going through a pretty intense three year grieving process.
“I was kept going, saved really, because I found the drag queens in London. It was actually another person from Bedminster. I found Glyn Fussell, who was running this LGBT+ club night called Sink the Pink. We’re both from Bedminster. We found out that our mums worked at Asda at the same time. It was this nightclub full of drag queens and LGBT people, and it was like a family that supported me. It was because of Bedminster that I found a place to be in London.
“I was doing this Adele impersonation, and performing in a supportive environment, and it was really important for me.
“Then in 2014, I had this carpe diem moment, when I saw this competition thing, the Funny Women Awards, and I wasn’t sure about entering it. I just decided to go for it, and when I did put in my entry I was like ‘right I’m going to win it’, and I did.
“It makes it sound easy, like I was grieving my sister for three years and then I was alright, but it really wasn’t. I was in my 20s, and this was a really intense grieving process, but all I can say to people going through this is that it does get better,” she added.
Winning the Funny Women Awards was another big step forward, and she began to appear on television on things like 8 Out of 10 Cats, and as a host, with a Best Newcomer nomination at Edinburgh in 2016.
Even through all this, ever since she went to London, she’d been working regular jobs. “I did all sorts, you name it,” she said. “I was working in a call centre, did bar work, everything. I think it’s just something that you have to do. When you’re working class, you’ve just got to work to survive. I didn’t have the Bank of Mum and Dad to support me in this, so I said yes to anything.”
It wasn’t until relatively recently – 2017 – that she finally went completely full time as a comedian, actress and TV presenter. She’d already hosted programmes on Comedy Central, been on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, appeared in Russell Howard’s A Gert Lush Christmas and had a comedy short on Sky Arts, but was still working, managing the famous Lizzie’s On The Green cafe kiosk on Newington Green in Islington, north London.
“I didn’t rush into quitting a ‘proper job’. I didn’t have that security,” she said. “I literally did it when I was so busy with the performing stuff that I couldn’t work at the cafe any longer. It was getting to the point there when people were coming to the kiosk and saying ‘haven’t I seen you on the telly?’.
“All the time I was doing all this stuff, I was working 7am to 5pm in the cafe or before in another job and then go to do a gig.
“So it wasn’t that daunting a thing when I quit doing a proper job, because it was a gradual thing. The most daunting decision I made was moving to London.
“I had a job since I was 16. Having a regular income is part of the journey, a necessity. If I’d spent my 20s not having a job and trying to ‘make it’, then I wouldn’t have been able to be a real stand up and talk about real things,” she added.
Her love of performing, of being centre stage, started long before the move to London, and long before she tried in the late 2000s to make it on the minimal comedy circuit Bristol had at the time.
It began from a very young age – her auntie Jackie had a freestyle disco dancing school in Henbury and her and Jenna would go. “Anything goes, really, with freestyle disco, but I quickly found that while I wasn’t athletic or particularly good at dancing, I used to be very disruptive in my humour. I used to make people laugh with my dancing, and I thought from a young age, ‘oh this is good fun’,” she explained.
She went to St Mary Redcliffe School and didn’t think she was particularly academic. “I didn’t think I’d done very well at my GCSEs, but I’d enjoyed doing them. None of my teachers thought I’d amount to much, to be honest. But I absolutely smashed it. On the day of the results, they made me open them on television – they had cameras there and it was the first time I’d been on TV. The teachers knew I’d done well. I was there saying ‘no I really don’t want to find out I’ve failed on telly’, but they made me open them and I’d got A*s and As.
“The problem was I thought then that A-Levels would be just as easy, but they were ten times harder so I failed my A-Levels ridiculously. Only one of my three university places took me, and that was the University of Glamorgan, which was in the middle of nowhere, and it’s not even a university anymore now,” she said.
Going to uni meant leaving home at 18, and also leaving the first job she’d had – with her mum behind the fish counter at Asda in Bedminster.
Mum Gail is a legend of Bemmie Asda, she’s only recently stopped and was there 30 years. “If you’ve ever had anything from the fish counter at Asda in Bedminster, you’ve either been served by me or my mum basically,” said Jayde.
“I started when I was 16. I was really proud of it. We used to win awards for it. After work I’d go for a drink in the White Hart with a couple of the lads from work and we’d play skittles. I’ve heard it’s got a sushi bar in Asda now, so I’m not sure what’s happened there,” she added.
University, and a drama and performing arts degree in a wet Welsh town meant getting connections and living the student life. “I’m an extra-curricular kind of girl,” she joked.
But it was drama and dance more than comedy that Jayde went into initially.
“I’ll try anything really. I was a dancer and choreographer after I left un. Then I got a job being the person who marries the people at an inflatable church that would tour all the festivals. I did that for a few years. That was the first time, really, I’d had a microphone in my hand and presented to a crowd. And if you can get and keep the attention of a crowd of hungover people on God knows what at a festival on a Sunday afternoon, and make them laugh, then any crowd after that isn’t daunting. When I then went to London and tried stand up, I’d had that training,” she said.
All that while in Bristol, she still carried on with ‘proper jobs’, including managing the Star and Dove in Totterdown…
…which included the obligatory picture in the Evening Post eventually…
…but after a few years, it felt inevitable she’d have to go to London.
“I’ve always been quite ambitious. I tried to do stand up in Bristol, but there wasn’t really enough of a scene here, so that made my mind up to go to London. I actually think that’s changed now, and someone could get started here, the comedy scene in Bristol is now really brilliant,” she added.
It’s one that Jayde is looking forward to getting involved in, alongside the increasingly wide-ranging work back up in that there London.
The next 12 months will see her branching out into more drama and acting roles, as well as ‘an exciting project that I can’t talk about yet’. She’s also doing a Radio 4 programme about home and moving back to Bristol that also involves Dawn French. “It’s important to do a bit of everything, this is the key,” she said. “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket because that basket might break, or something. I’ve got lots of things going on, a full diary ahead, which is great, so I’m at the point now where I can move back to Bristol,” she said.
She’s due to be back in Bristol by the end of the year – as long as the fixer-upper she’s bought in South Bristol is ready in time, with her family of tradespeople on the job to do the work. Having gone and come back a success in the ten years since her family lost Jenna, it’s definitely a time to reflect.
“Before she died, Jenna said to me ‘can you make sure that no one forgets me’,” Jayde said. ”When my sister died, I was determined. I had this new sense of responsibility to live not just my own life, but hers as well.”
Now mum Gail and Jayde are highlighting the support they had from a Bristol-based national charity, Brain Tumour Support, which she said was ‘awesome’.
Both mum and daughter have raised awareness and thousands of pounds through numerous fundraising events over the years, including charity balls in Jenna’s name, and most recently by selling facemasks expertly handmade by Gail.
Brain Tumour Support’s CEO, Tina Mitchell Skinner, said: “The vision of the charity is that no-one should have to face a brain tumour diagnosis alone and without support. Crucially that means that emotional and practical support is there from the point of diagnosis and for as long as it is needed, not just for the patient but for their loved ones too.
“The services provided by our specialist Support Team are free of charge and tailored to individual need, so this may be one-to-one help, support groups, specialist counselling, or providing information and signposting to other agencies. The common thread in the power of that support is reducing the isolation and fear that is felt after a brain tumour diagnosis.”
Read more about the impact of brain tumours and the work of Brain Tumour Support on the website here.