12 bakers, including an intelligence analyst and vegetable grower, were announced on Tuesday (September 19) ahead of the return of the baking contest to Channel 4 next week.
Participation officer Tasha, 27, who is deaf, said it was a “big moment” when presenter Noel Fielding introduced the latest host, Alison Hammond, and her British sign language interpreter (BSL), Daryl, to the show.
Tasha, from Bristol, said: “Seeing Daryl up at the front and feeling fully part of the show was a really special moment.
“I couldn’t have done it without him and without the dedication from the show ensuring I had the same access as the other bakers.”
This Morning presenter Hammond, 48, was announced as a replacement for comedian Matt Lucas, who said in December he would step down from the role.
Tasha said that when she found out she was going to be on the series, both she and Daryl cried.
She added: “We were a mess. I didn’t say anything that made sense because I was so unprepared to be told that, I never thought that it would be me going to the tent.”
The chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, Susan Daniels, said it was “vitally important that deaf children and young people see positive deaf role models on TV and in the media”.
Ms Daniels added: “It’s great to see the Great British Bake Off include a deaf contestant for the first time. We’re confident that they’ll rise to the challenge.”
Also among the contestants is Sri Lankan-born intelligence analyst Saku, 50; vegetable grower and delivery driver Abbi, 27, from Cumbria; north London deli and grocery manager Amos, 43; east London PA Cristy, 33; and Nicky, 52, a retired cabin crew member from the West Midlands.
Saku, from Herefordshire, said she felt as though she was “going to explode” when she got the phone call for the show.
Asked about her special memories from the first week of filming, she said: “Another very special thing, I am not going to tell, which will stay in my heart forever. Thank you very much for my special hug.”
Cristy, a mother of four, said: “Oh, Alison and Noel were one of the best parts about the tent, they are both so lovely and funny. Also seeing them bounce off each other and having a laugh all the time. They are the perfect duo.”
Also competing: Dan, 42, a civil engineering resource planner from Cheshire; Dana, 25, a database administrator from Essex; Josh, 27, from Leicestershire; chartered accountant Keith, 60, from Hampshire; Matt, 28, a Cambridgeshire PE and science teacher, and student Rowan, 21.
Rowan, from West Yorkshire, said as the youngest baker in the tent this year she flaunts her youth and lets “everyone know that I was only eight when the first episode of Bake Off aired”.
She added: “After watching each series without fail, I knew that one of my life goals would be to bake in that tent.
“Getting the call to say I had achieved that dream, I did the only thing appropriate – I slid to the floor, screamed down the phone and ran to the shops for a bottle of prosecco, all before getting back to join the group wash-up in my uni house. Classy.”
Josh, a post-doctoral research associate, said he was in the chemistry lab when he went into “complete shock” after being accepted.
He said: “So many emotions going through my head, excitement of the prospect of baking in the tent, buzzing as I couldn’t wait to tell my brother and parents the news, nervous that I was going to be baking for Paul and Prue.
“And a sense of accomplishment that I had managed to make it through and do my nan proud, as she was a big inspiration for entering again this year.
“She passed away in June 2021 and I said I would try and enter the Bake Off again for her.”
In 2022, Syabira Yusoff was named the winner of the series.
The Great British Bake Off returns on Tuesday September 26 at 8pm on Channel 4