Architectural 'Big Brother' aims to save crumbling heritage

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The Independent Online

Thirty of the finest structures in Britain's crumbling heritage are to vie for public support in a knockout competition whose winner will receive the funds needed for restoration.

Thirty of the finest structures in Britain's crumbling heritage are to vie for public support in a knockout competition whose winner will receive the funds needed for restoration.

Listed buildings ranging from a 19th-century Scottish folly to a pier at Clevedon in Somerset, will be featured in a BBC2 series made by Endemol, the company behind Big Brother, with the audience voting to decide which will be saved from dereliction.

Celebrities including Richard E Grant, Fiona Bruce and Robert Hardy will champion their favourite buildings in a similar way to the BBC2 series Great Britons. The voting telephone line used by the audience will raise funds for the winning building, and the organisers said they were optimistic that, with the help of matching funding from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, enough would be raised to help even the costliest project. An appeal will encourage public donations.

Nikki Cheetham, the executive producer of the series, called Restoration, said: "More people go to see heritage sites than go to football matches. There are thousands of people who feel very passionately about these buildings. But there are 17,000 buildings at risk in this country and they're in a worse state than at any time since the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This will give all these buildings the oxygen of publicity."

Three properties will be featured in each of 10 episodes presented by Griff Rhys Jones. Moulton windmill in Lincolnshire requires the smallest sum for restoration at £500,000 while the Art Nouveau Victoria Baths in Manchester needs the most support at £14m.

The competition will climax in September with a live final coinciding with an open weekend where viewers will get the chance to visit thousands of at-risk properties including some not usually open to the public.

Jane Root, the controller of BBC2, said: "With the shocking statistic that one historical monument has been lost in the UK every day since the end of World War Two, Restoration will throw a timely spotlight on the thousands more still at risk and offer the audience a chance to save one of these buildings."

The focus on heritage is being echoed at Channel Five, now known as Five, which has announced four shows asking the public to vote for their favourite country houses, castles, gardens and monuments.

Other highlights of BBC2's spring and summer schedule of programmes include a drama about the poet Philip Larkin, another on the writer George Orwell, and a third about the Cambridge spies of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

Topping the list of arts programmes is an Arena documentary examining the popularity of the John Lennon song "Imagine". Yoko Ono, the late Beatle's wife, has been interviewed for the film and has given permission for the BBC to show private film footage that has never been seen in public.

Wildlife programmes include a show in which Bill Oddie will try to bring a suburban garden to life with 50 miniature cameras hidden in gnomes, flower pots and bird-feeders recording the mating season in May.

A docu-drama, The Day Britain Stopped, will explore the possible effects on the country's transport networks of a series of transport disasters including a collision between two aircraft.

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