Grand Designs Live is an exhibition dedicated to all things home and design. Industry leaders will be on hand to give expert advice on any projects you want to get started on, celebrity renovators will be sharing their knowledge in a series of seminars and there will be showcases of the best in kitchens, bathrooms, interiors, building and outdoor. Naturally, you'll also get to see presenter Kevin McCloud.
Just mentioning McCloud's name gets people excited – so when the opportunity to interview him came to the Time Out office, only a vigorous game of scissors-paper-rock could settle who got the interview. He's the man whose expert knowledge, smooth voice, have managed to make what could have been a staid TV show – Grand Designs UK – into a global smash. On the phone from London he tells us – with that deep, and deeply appealing voice – "More people watch Grand Designs in Australia than in the UK."
Now in its 14th year, the Channel 4 TV series continues to build its fanbase, and it's not just through McCloud's personal appeal. Grand Designs gives viewers a glimpse into some of the most amazing domiciles on the planet: elaborate, self-built dream homes all of which go through a rigorous selection process before the production team steps foot inside.
"It’s got to be different and exemplary," says McCloud. "It’s got to show something new." The show takes years to produce and follows people on their quest to build their dream homes – each episode starts with McCloud visiting the site and discussing their plans, goes on to show the building process, and ends with his assessment of the finished project. Often projects that you don't think will ever get finished are miraculously completed, and on budget. It doesn't sound exciting, but somehow, with McCloud telling the story, it is. Then there are the homes that never made the cut. "I saw a church in Birmingham which was sort of half-beautiful," says McCloud of the one they let get away. "They’d done all the restoration and then they’d stuck a great big swimming pool in the middle of it inside a concrete box. Incarcerated it inside the building! It felt like half church, half bunker."
McCloud has a long background in design: he worked in theatre design for years and later started his own lighting design firm. He recently built his own off-the-grid cabin in the woods from scratch, documenting it in his series Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home. Part of his goal with Grand Designs is to get us to change the way we view houses and property. “The idea that you simply buy something, sit in it and sell it for twice as much three years later is ludicrous. It’s not sustainable. And it’s a very immoral way of making money – you haven’t earned it, you haven’t worked for it. It’s not fair. It’s not equitable.”
McCloud is in town this month for Grand Designs Live, an event where you can be inspired, get free advice and see the latest products you might have seen in the show. "People come expecting just an exhibition, and it’s not. It’s an entertaining day out, and it has to be that." One piece of wisdom he's planning to share is more practical than grand… and he's got his fingers crossed he can get it through Customs. "It's Sugru – a silicone repairing medium that handles like Blu Tac but sets like silicone so you can handle it and work it with your hands. You can repair everything with it: shoes, clothes, cares – you can repair kitchen knives and your iPhone, too."