Tommy Walsh is previously known for his many seasons on the hit UK gardening program Ground Force, where he acts as the resident builder. So when it came to making a home-reno show for Discovery UK, he seemed an obvious choice. But how does one find a ‘compulsive scavenger’ to round out the cast for a series that requires some digging for recycled and reusable bits to renovate a house for free?
In fact, says Barbara Altounyan, director of programs for UK-based Flame TV, the ‘compulsive scavenger’ came to them. Through word of mouth the team at Flame TV was introduced to Liam Collins, a builder and self-proclaimed scavenger who is particularly good at taking found objects and making them into something new. While Collins’ original vision was to create a show where he used recycled materials to build an entire house, Discovery UK’s commissioning editor Victoria Noble suggested the team try renovating properties on the cheap instead.
‘At the end of the day we wanted series and we wanted something that ordinary people could do,’ says Altounyan. ‘It’s very ‘zeitgeisty’ at the moment,’ she says of the idea to renovate rather than build from scratch, ‘because people aren’t moving homes at the moment in England.’ There, like most places in the Western world, people aren’t selling or buying homes with as much frequency, electing instead to fix up what they have as cheaply as possible.
That’s where Collins and Walsh come in. In the 5×60-minute series Tommy’s Fix Your House For Free, the duo (pictured) takes on five different residences with five different sets of builders on hand to fulfill such tasks as renovating a kitchen, building a summer house and converting a garage into a salon using only scavenged materials. Flame made sure each family hired their own builders, just in case there was any strife between the builders and the owners, and the prodco made sure that the builders were okay with working with otherwise discarded materials.
Altounyan says the builders weren’t keen right off the bat, but once they mulled it over, they liked the idea. ‘They each came back and said, ‘Yes, we’re up for it.’ Because it is about recycling materials, it is about less materials going into landfill and, as builders, they’re appalled at the amount of waste,’ she says.
Tommy’s Fix Your House For Free debuts October 1 on Discovery UK.