Students have a ‘right royal’ time filming special episode of BBC One’s DIY SOS

The BBC DIY SOS team have finally completed work on their biggest build to date - with a little help from Shrewsbury College students and staff and some very special guests.

A group of Painting & Decorating students and their tutor, Barry Mason, spent the week on the BBC One two-part programme 'DIY SOS: The Big Build Veterans’ Special’ to help transform eight existing houses for Armed Forces Veterans, as well as landscaping the East Manchester streets they belong to - and were thrilled when HRH Princes William and Harry made a surprise guest appearance to the project!

Prince William and Prince Harry visited and spent a few hours on site, helping with some of the labour work. Painting & Decorating student Amanda Conner, was stood by the Princes when they recorded the opening of the show and was lucky enough to speak to Prince William. 

She said:  “It was a shock meeting Prince William, we didn’t know they were going to be visiting the site. It was pretty nerve-racking. As I was walking past, the Prince stopped me and shook my hand, he was very enthusiastic and said “We need more woman in construction”. It was definitely a boost having them both on site that day.

“The work itself throughout the week was really useful for me in particular, as I’ve been preparing to take part in a national painting & decorating competition next week.

“Having the chance to take part in projects like this and work on TV shows is a real bonus to the course and I’m always willing to lend my hand in extra projects.”

Tutor Barry Mason has worked on TV shows previously, including regularly featuring on ITV’s 60 minute Makeover and Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders. Barry previously held the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest wallpapering and was personally chosen to paint part of Buckingham Palace.

When this project was announced, Barry jumped at the opportunity to volunteer on the job and take with him a small group of highly-skilled students and apprentices. He said: “I took a group of about 10 students and apprentices from the construction department, including painters & decorators, plumbers and maintenance students, who did a range of general labour work and specific paint jobs.

“One of our roles in the huge project was to hang two very intricately detailed murals out of wallpaper on a large staircase in one of the communal buildings. The murals were split into 14 pieces and needed to be placed perfectly along a very tricky stairway. Amanda helped me on this particular job and the process would have proved extremely challenging for even the most experienced decorator, but she definitely rose to the challenge.

“The week also proved very beneficial for the students because it was the first time they had the chance to work on a working building site – of a huge scale. It meant they had to go through all of the relevant health and safety procedures and work alongside other trades.

“The work was tough, but it was definitely worth the long hours. We left the site at 10.30pm on Friday, very tired, but proud of the part we had all played in a very worthy cause and invaluable experience.”

Presenter Nick Knowles, said: “Thanks to the massive support of our partners and the building trade - which continues to amaze us - we might just do it. It's certainly for a fantastic cause as these veterans have given so much."

This is a first-of-its-kind partnership, and the project is bringing together Manchester City DIY SOS: Big Build, Manchester City Council; charities Walking with the Wounded as well as  Haig Housing and Adactus Housing Groups - along with a huge amount of time, expertise, materials and supplies donated to the project by volunteer contractors. In addition, many suppliers, utilities and smaller specialist companies, including Shrewsbury College, have come forward to help on this biggest ever DIY SOS challenge.

During the two one-hour programmes due to be screened on BBC One on 14 and 21 October at 9pm, viewers will see eight of the streets' empty homes refurbished to create two larger adapted residential homes for veterans and their families, one standard size property for a veteran and a veteran support and advice centre.

For more information about Construction Courses at Shrewsbury College, please call 01743 342411. Alternatively you can pop along to the Open Evening on Thursday, 12 November, 5 – 8pm, London Road.

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