Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood reveal why they ‘kept their distance’ from contestants in Bake Off bubble

The production bubble ensured social distancing wasn't necessary on set - but the judges still didn't want to get too close to this year's contestants.

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith on The Great British Bake Off

The cast and crew of this year’s Great British Bake Off may all have lived together in a specially created bubble for the entirety of production – but that doesn’t mean the judges mingled freely with the contestants.

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Although these changes did allow the cast to refrain from social distancing on set by eliminating the risk of coronavirus, judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith have revealed they still kept their distance from contestants on a more emotional level.

Explaining why the Great British Bake Off judges and presenters Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding didn’t eat meals with the amateur bakers off set, Leith told The Irish News: “Obviously we don’t want to become best friends with them, because then it makes it even harder to send them home. So we have to keep our distance.”

Instead, Hollywood and Leith met with Noel Fielding and new co-host Matt Lucas for meals together in their hotel each day.

Bake Off hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas
Bake Off hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas (Channel 4)

However, although the judges didn’t want to get too close to the hopefuls, Leith revealed that they did make one concession: “When we finally got to the final, Paul invited the finalists to come join us and it was just so nice to be relaxed and having a drink with them, instead of them being all scared of us and anxious.”

Hollywood also observed that this year’s contestants seemed slightly less competitive with each other than in previous series of the show, “Maybe because they were living together for so long.”

“Sure, they want to win, they don’t want to go home, but I didn’t see that real competitiveness against each other,” he said. “As a group, they were very emotional when someone went.”

Producer Kieran Smith recently told Radio Times that production had almost been put on hold when someone on set showed coronavirus symptoms in the middle of filming, although it proved to be a false alarm.

He explained: “Somebody spoke to our medical team because they were showing symptoms that could have been COVID.

“We had very strict protocols about what to do. They were isolated immediately, as was anyone who had been in close contact with them. They were tested immediately. We paused filming for an afternoon. The test came back negative and we resumed filming the next day.”

Bake Off returns for its eleventh series this week – opening with an extended 90 minute episode on Tuesday 22nd September.

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It will be interesting to see how this year’s batch of contestants fared with the unusual production schedule, with The Great British Bake Off contestants having been revealed by Channel 4 earlier this week.

Great British Bake Off will return to Channel 4 on Tuesday 22nd September at 8pm. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide