DIY SOS: The Million Pound Build For Children in Need

Wednesday 13 November



Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team embark on their most ambitious build yet, as they head to Peterborough to create a brand-new building for the BBC Children in Need-funded organisation Little Miracles.

The centre that supports children with disabilities and life-limiting illnesses and their families is the first building to be demolished and completely rebuilt from the ground up by the DIY SOS team, making it worth almost £1million.

The BBC Children in Need Special sees presenter Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS boys round up hundreds of volunteers from around the UK, including decorators, electricians, carpenters, joiners, landscapers, builders, plasterers, plumbers and engineers. It takes them just nine days to build the new centre, making this the biggest challenge that DIY SOS has ever undertaken.

Little Miracles, who currently have 1,500 registered children, was gifted two and a half acres of land, housing a dilapidated building with no wheelchair access and poor facilities. With no means or funds to renovate it themselves, they welcomed the DIY SOS team’s challenge to knock down, rebuild the centre and landscape the grounds, using volunteers and donated materials.

DIY SOS: The Million Pound Build For Children in Need is produced by BBC Bristol. It is series produced by Paolo Proto, executive produced by Robi Dutta and directed by Tom Payne.

Q&A with Nick Knowles

How is this show different from normal DIY SOS?

The show is different because it’s bigger than any build ever attempted in a short space of time for television (in any country). Normally we transform an existing two or three bedroom house and add on something like an extension in nine days. The Little Miracles' site for BBC Children in Need was the size of three average homes and we built it from the ground up - that's how big it was and it was our biggest ever challenge.

Although it had the same budget as every DIY SOS, it had a finished value of £1million. It will never be attempted again as it damn near ruined us all!

The inside was designed by this country’s most renowned and respected interior designer, Nina Campbell and the two acre parkland was designed by Britain's most internationally renowned landscape designer and Chelsea multi-gold medal winner, Chris Beardshaw.

What does this show have to do with BBC Children in Need?

This is the lead in for BBC Children in Need, to rev up the country and show how the money raised by the Great British public makes a difference to so many people. This very special build provides a place for the children of over 800 families in that area with disabilities and life limiting illnesses, not to mention other children's groups like Scouts.

Did this build feel different to the others?

It felt different because it was vast and testing to achieve a nine-month build in nine days but at its core it was the same as ever - a community coming together to provide a better life for people who find themselves in difficulty through no fault if their own. And it's funny, it always is. That's why over six million people still watch it.

Were you emotional during/at the end?

We were all emotional. We were very tired at the end and to see the faces of the children running around in their new centre, playing alongside each other whether abled or disabled, was terrific.

How did the Little Miracles team react when they saw the huge group of volunteers arrive?

I think no matter how many times you tell people we do these transformations, for the hundreds who take part, they're never quite ready for the wall of people who appear. On this one, for Children in Need, the wall went on forever.

How did the Little Miracles people react when they saw the build reveal?

You'll have to wait and see how they react but suffice to say that watching a child who has never been into a forest make their way through the woods on wheelchair friendly paths or find themselves in a wheelchair accessible treehouse is a lovely moment.

How good are your own DIY skills?

We don't really do DIY - we never have done. We are construction and design really. I think the press are confused by the name although the viewers get it - it's an ‘SOS’ put out by people who have tried to ‘DIY’ and can't because it’s too big.

Have you ever done your own home or friends/family home up?

None of us do DIY but we all renovate, design, structurally reconstruct and build for a living. I have done several houses as have the rest of the team but to describe the building from the ground up of a purpose designed and built 250 metre wheelchair accessible counselling centre with hall, showers, sensory room and two acres of landscaped parkland - of being a DIY project - is a bit like calling the QE2 a rowing boat!

What is your outstanding memory from this build?

My outstanding memory is standing frozen and tired at 1am when Nina Campbell bounced by saying “gosh this is fun!” And a bunch of hairy builders saying “blimey she's got some staying power.” It's the people who make it so amazing and as I said we definitely will never do anything this big again.