Thelma Madine: Teaching Gypsy Weddings girls dressmaking was a nightmare
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings dressmaker Thelma Madine has lifted the lid on the challenges she faced filming new TV show Thelma's Gypsy Girls, where travellers compete to become the best at making wedding dresses.
Liverpudlian Thelma, 59, says she was shocked when she realised how uneducated and illiterate most of the gypsy girls she'd selected were.
'After the first day, I cried my eyes out and thought: "What have I done?"' says Thelma.
'They don't act like 16- or 17-year-olds. They were more like 10- or 11-year-olds because they finished school at 11.
'I found out most of them couldn't read or write. Some couldn't tell the time so we had them asking what the time was - and even what day it was.
'They had no social skills at all or any idea how to behave in the workplace. It was chaos and a bit of a nightmare.'
Thelma ended up mentoring the teenagers more than she originally intended.
'I realised it wasn't just teaching these girls to sew - we had to get a tutor to teach them how to read and write,' she tells the Daily Mirror.
'Now they can all read. They're at different reading levels but they've all improved.
'It was full-on and turned my life upside down.'
See Thelma trying to cope with her dressmaking pupils in Thelma's Gypsy Girls on Channel 4 at 9pm.