Property is great, but it’s people who make the stories

Given all that’s whirling round my universe at the moment, I’m possibly a little more in touch with my emotions than usual. Normally my most heart-wrenching decisions are along the lines of which wall to take down, kitchen to fit or wallpaper to hang, so it was hardly surprising that last week’s Grand Designs left me with a very large lump in my throat, as apparently it did with the rest of the Twittersphere.

The respect which Kevin McCloud shows to his ‘contributors’ (telly speak for the self-builders who appear on his show) is apparent every week, whether or not he personally likes their creations. He always manages a positive comment and it’s clear he recognises that the home he is wandering round is their dream, not his. Often these self-builders are architects and it can be hard to warm to some featured due  to their detachment, a kind of professional aura which wraps around their dream making the end result, the property built, seem less a personal home created and more a vanity project completed.

If you watched it, you’ll know that warming to Lucie and her Woodbridge home was not difficult and her story softened the heart of even the most hardened property people out there. It was told with dignity and handled incredibly skilfully, it didn’t wallow in shmaltz and tears, but managed to convey that this house was built not with timber and blockwork, but with love and memories. And Lucie, Property Warrior Woman 2010, was an inspiration with her positive outlook and grace.

You can read more of her story and see more images on the Channel 4 web-site: http://www.channel4.com/4homes/on-tv/grand-designs/episode-guides/woodbridge-the-modest-contemporary-home-10-09-29_p_1.html

Property shows aren’t really about property are they? Not the really interesting ones, not the ones you remember, not the ones which you discuss with your friends. The best ones are about people. It’s why sometimes some of them leave me cold and I am *seriously* obsessed about property, so that’s saying something. I’m not for one minute saying that they should all have the stop-you-in-your-tracks moment that the Woodbridge episode did, but they should all find out the story behind the curtains. The presenters who have a natural empathy with their contributors and who draw out their dreams make shows which capture the audience in a way no overly dramatic voice-over can ever hope to do. Yes, Help, My House Is Falling Down, that’s YOU I’m talking about.

Having been a contributor on a tv property porn show almost eight years ago, I can speak from absolute experience when I say that my episode would have been a lot better if they’d found out the real reason for my drive and determination, but they simply weren’t that interested. If I’d trusted them and the presenter, it would have been a much more honest show and I possibly wouldn’t have come across as hard and money-orientated, which I’m not at all. It was abundantly clear that the Grand Designs team had Lucie’s trust and that it was absolutely well placed. Only with that trust in place could the audience hear of her hopes and fears, be shown the passion which went into the build and on a very human level feel part of such an inspirational story.

I met Kevin McCloud once at the RIBA awards in Edinburgh and he came across as a genuinely nice bloke, friendly to everyone and when he smiled it reached his eyes. Important that last one. It’s no wonder we got to hear Lucie’s story, with him in charge. Try and catch the episode if you missed it, you may just end up wanting to build a house…..

5 thoughts on “Property is great, but it’s people who make the stories

  1. Worked with Kevin McCloud back in 04 on a property restoration show, was Biddulph Hall a right old stately pile and was transformed into something awesome. Never got to see that show which was a shame as enjoyed working on it. Lovely fella BTW.

  2. Kevin’s the man.

    Randomly – do you remember the episode from a few seasons back where a woman was building in France…converting some old barn into a family home and rental home below that?

    She had problems with the French builder, erm..her name was Nicky I think.

    I saw her last week at 100% Design, I told her I liked her house (which I did)

  3. Totally agree with you. Whilst I probably watch more property porn than is good for me, if I were only allowed to watch one favourite, it would have to be Grand Designs – for the very reasons you outline in your post.

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