TVEYE; BUILDING BRIDGES

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Our relationship with builders is a bit like a Royal marriage: it starts as a dreamlike, fairytale romance, but soon degenerates into a nightmare of recriminations about broken promises. Simon Seaton, a streetwise London builder, always tells clients at the beginning of a job: "You think the sun shines out of my arse, you think I'm great, but at the end of it, you're gonna hate me."

Simon is just one of the building blocks which make up "The Builders Are Coming", a wry examination of our love-hate relationship with the trade, which opens a new series of Cutting Edge on Monday. "Builders are an inevitable part of modern life," observes Charles Furneaux, the Channel 4 commissioning editor responsible for the film. "We have the largest number of home-owners in the world after Bangladesh. It's one of the triumphs of the last 15 years," he says with a laugh.

Madonna Benjamin, the producer of the film, outlines the usual course of the relationship between home-owners and builders. "Most people who have builders in are deskbound and can't even do minor DIY. We need builders, and at first we love them. You think it's going to be like a holiday. They come in, they've got muscles and they're cheeky chappies.'. They promise to sort it out for you, they promise you a dream. Then the whole thing gets soured. The dream disintegrates with the mess everywhere and cigarette butts in the toilet."

The breakdown inevitably occurs because both sides have unrealistic expectations. Simon reveals his way of dealing with the problem. "I'm gonna promise them whatever they wanna hear. If I told them the truth... they'd get very, very upset and withhold money... I'm telling them I'll be out in three weeks, but I know I won't be."

The documentary's great achievement, however, is to be even-handed - amazingly we even end up feeling sorry for the builders. Furneaux explains: "Simon sheds light on it all. We treat builders badly and expect something for nothing. We don't understand what they do and are bemused when they turn round and say they are going to need more money. At the end of this film, we realise we're more difficult than we thought. People are much more forgiving of warts-and-all films. You look at people on balance, you weigh up the positive and negative, and then you come to a view. That's why the Royal Opera House had such high sales after The House.

Benjamin stresses that the object of her film was balance. "Most home- owners would initially side with the home-owners," she reckons. "But Simon makes you see the other side of the story. Even if you don't agree 100 per cent with his way of operating, you can see it is annoying for builders to have to wait a month for a decision on what tiles to use. Simon made me think that maybe the builders have got a story, too."

As always with Cutting Edge, the film also tacitly comments on the state of the nation.

"It tells us quite a lot about the way we fall into certain roles," Furneaux contends. "The boys [builders] naturally fall into the role of naughty pupils at the back of the form. And the two elderly women who entice builders from the North into their spider's web turn into charming versions of

praying mantises."

Benjamin aims to have played a peacekeeping role. "I hope both sides will now see how the other feels. Perhaps viewers won't always see builders as they did in the past as the enemy."

Furneaux is even more optimistic. "All of the builders in the film will find themselves getting more offers of work."

Cutting Edge's `The Builders are Coming' is on Monday 9pm C4

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