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Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs talks to Amie Mulderrig about fame, his TV show and love of buildings
From hobbit homes to hexagonal houses and high-tech habitats – for the past 15 years, Kevin McCloud has taken viewers on an architectural journey with television show Grand Designs.
Now the 55-year-old presenter is bringing the innovative, thinking-man’s home improvement show to the Excel in east London, in the form of an exhibition, for Grand Designs Live.
Testament to the programme’s popularity, it's not the first time it has been staged at the venue, rather, this is the tenth year.
“I’m aware people come along because they want to make contact with the programme, but you can’t really turn a television series filmed over 18 months into an event,“ he says, matter-of-factly. “So, it’s important that we’ve provided the show with its very own heartbeat, that is we find different and fun stuff to do: there’s usually 100,000 people, lots of exhibitors and we have lots of guests.
“I like to think of myself as the circus ringmaster – I make presentations, bump into people, and make a general nuisance of myself.
“So I do rather enjoy it... but it’s a very intense period for me, I hate being in the limelight.“
For someone who has been a regular fixture on our television screens for the past 15 years, it’s a strange admission.
This is, after all, the man who traipses through people’s houses, evaluating and discussing the merits of their ‘grand designs’ in front of millions of viewers each week.
“I just don’t like fuss,“ he says. “I loathe it, I don’t like being the centre of attention, I find it all rather embarrassing.
“Every day I’m surprised by how popular the show is. I only thought it would be watched by a couple of chartered surveyors and their dogs. I mean, who’d be interested in watching electricians doing second fits?
“But people are!“ he laughs. “People are inspired by the journey, I think, because, it’s a journey they could go on.“
Away from television, it’s a journey Kevin is less keen on undertaking himself. He reveals he is quite content with his 500-year-old farmhouse in Somerset, which he shares with his wife Zani and four children.
“I love making the programme, but it’s been 15 years of window-shopping.
“I still find buildings utterly beguiling, but I don’t want to live in any of these places, they are other people’s dreams,“ he explains.
“Sometimes I think to myself, I’d love that, but then ten minutes later I’ll be on the train and it’ll be a case of no, just no.
Next month, Kevin will be back on our television screens for a programme which focuses on recycling – specifically an Airbus A320, into a variety of different items, which he hopes to showcase alongside the exhibitors at the London show.
“A lot of people say home exhibitions are dead because of online shopping, but it’s simply not true,“ he says, his voice passionately rising. “You lose all sense of tactility when you shop online, you’ve no idea what you’re buying.
“These exhibitions really come into their own because the small lighting maker in Truro or the placemat maker in Derbyshire can come share their wares.
“You get a real sense of craftsmanship and it’s a magical quality.“
Grand Designs Live, is at London Excel, from May 3 to May 11. Details: granddesignslive.com, 0844 854 1348.
Free tickets to the show up for grabs in the newspaper.