National Trust’s London Project stirs debate on ‘what is heritage’
You may well ask why on earth the National Trust, in collaboration with Initial, an Endemol Company, and Channel 5, is opening the Big Brother House to the public. Here, in anticipation, is the answer.
The Trust has always been about getting people into special places. And, there is no doubt that this particular Palace of Varieties, housed in Elstree Studios, is a genuine residence and special to many. In fact, arguably, more special than most. It has been described by more than one TV critic as ‘the most important house in Britain’. The Trust likes important houses.
On the final ‘Eviction Night’ this summer, some 2m people tuned in to watch the House – only a little short of the number who visited the Tower of London last year. How many would have visited the Big Brother house had they had the opportunity? Now they have it!
The fact that the housemates’ residence is not, say, a sublime Robert Adam country house like OsterleyPark, for example, does not necessarily make it less interesting to the National Trust. The fact that the garden is not the parterre at Cliveden but is more like the astro-turfed gardening section of a DIY store actually makes it more relevant, or at least more comprehensible, to modern society.
The Great Houses of our past reflected the tastes of the day and so does the Big Brother House.
One of the traditional appeals of a more typical National Trust property is the story of the people who lived there. There is no doubt that hundreds of thousands already know a great deal about the stories of Big Brother residents and how they survived their experience. As at all National Trust properties, visitors will be able to buy a guidebook with some great and very witty comparisons.
Lastly, our tongues are not a million miles from our cheeks – unusual for an organisation not most famous for its sense of humour. We hope that by opening the Big Brother House we are paving the way to an altogether wittier future.
Our Opening Gala will feature housemates past and present, starry celebs and social pundits. In the ‘Bit on The Side’ studio, London Director, Ivo Dawnay, will host media style-gurus including Peter York and Camilla Long, in a short, and no doubt, frivolous panel discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of opening this property to the public and its standing as a sociological emblem of how, some of us at least, live now.
The following two days the house will be open to the general public. Tickets are available exclusively through www.nationaltrust.org.uk/london portal to all the exciting new initiatives now under the London Project rubric.
Visitors will enjoy many of the pleasures of the National Trust experience: a warm greeting from a friendly volunteer, good signage and interpretation, and a prickly pine-cone or two on a chair.
The Grand Opening of the Big Brother House is the first of a season of ‘Lates’ that will be rolling out over the next few months in exciting locations such as the Rivoli Ballroom.
Although the Grand Gala Opening of the Big Brother evening opening is invitation only, one lucky member of the public will have the chance to bring six friends along. All they have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org and the winner will be drawn on 24th September.
The house will then be open to Trust members and the general public on Friday 27 and Saturday 28th of September. Tickets are £16 for the public and £14 for National Trust members and concessions. They will be available only online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/london from Monday.