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Sunderland-born architect George Clarke has become the face of Channel 4 property with his TV shows The Restoration Man and The Home Show. He talks to Michael Hamilton about his television fame
What have you got coming up?
Im just about to start filming the second series of Restoration Man. Thats not going to be out until autumn next year and my new Home Show will be out in the spring or summer.
My big project this year has been my book. Its the book Ive always wanted to write. Its how to make your home into something quite special. Its a combination of the TV shows. I finished it in June and it launches in October. Ill be doing signings at the Durham Book Festival and Metro shopping centre.
What are your memories of growing up in the North East?
I loved growing up in the North East. I was born in Sunderland but my mam and dad moved to Washington when I was only two or three. It was a new town, a new build, a new way of living. It was an amazing place to grow up. A lot of people are quite critical of new towns but I didnt know anything else. I remember the streets were all pedestrianised and it was very green. I loved being close to the coast - I like Seaburn a lot and have fond memories of holidays in Redcar. We never ventured that far from home. Im a big Sunderland fan so my Saturdays were taken up watching my football team. All my aunties and uncles and family still live in Sunderland.
What do you miss most about the North East?
I miss the football. It was a big part of my life. Every other weekend I would be in the Fulwell End at old Roker Park. And if I wasnt watching it, Id be playing. I dont think Ive kicked a ball in London in the last three years because my working life has been so busy.
I miss the people as well. Im not going to get into a Newcastle/Sunderland/Middlesbrough rivalry because thats taken as read. But when you live in London those barriers drop and you start thinking in a North/South divide and I end up defending all of the North East. I love going back because the people are brilliant. Everyone says they are warm and friendly and they are.
What do your North East mates make of your TV celebrity?
First and foremost they are very proud and will give me a big hug. But they think its hilarious if we are out on a Friday or Saturday night and I get mobbed. They think its a scream.
Tell me about working with Sunderland Council to transform the riverside area.
Its a long-term thing. I was asked by the council if I would be an ambassador for the town and I said I would be more than happy. Urban regeneration is a massive task but Im certainly involved to try and make it better. How they do it and when they do it Im not exactly sure, but we are trying to put a strategy in place.
Is it inspired by the transformation of Newcastles Quayside?
I think Sunderland is a great city and Im incredibly proud of it but I dont think its where it should be, and I say that quite brutally.
I used to work for Terry Fowler Partners on Newcastle Quayside. Thats where I trained and Sir Terry was involved in the master plan. Look whats happened there. Its fantastic and Gateshead is brilliant, absolutely phenomenal. Theres a real buzz. Thats what Sunderland needs.
The Stadium of Light stadium is amazing. We have to build around that. My biggest concern is the whole south side of the river. The old Vaux brewery site has been bought by Tesco and its at a stalemate. Nothing is happening.
I dont blame Tesco and I dont blame the council. Its nobodys fault but can we get round the table and make something happen? Its outrageous. Its not right. Theres a terrible divide between the city centre and the football ground and it needs to be stitched together in some way.
I believe Durham Cathedral was a big inspiration.
It was a massive inspiration. Durham Cathedral is the best building in the world. Im obviously massively biased but its 1,000 years old and its beautiful. It was built at an exciting time. We had just come out of the Dark Ages. It blows me away now. Imagine what it must have been like to have walked up that hill and set eyes on it 1,000 years ago. We dont shout about it enough.
When I was about 13 or 14 I remember getting on the bus with my sketchpad. I spent the whole day sketching it and I knew Id never be anything other than an architect.
Are you mates with the presenters of the other Channel 4 property shows?
Its bizarre that we are in the same game and even have the same employer but we never see each other. Its actually rare that your paths cross.
I see Kirsty quite a lot but thats because she lives near me in West London. Ive never ever had a chance to say hello to Phil Spencer.
Tell me about your fans.
Ive had a bra thrown on stage. I never thought as an architect Id have a Tom Jones moment. In fact, I never thought that would happen in my life. Ive never had any knickers yet. Im hoping that will happen this year!
Do you ever get fed up with the fans?
To be honest, 99 per cent of it is good-natured. There are a couple of girls who come from the Wirral and follow me around at every single live event I do. They are always there in the front row, slightly drunk and start heckling or wolf whistling. They are brilliant. I always give them a big hug at the end. Its always good-natured; Ive never had anyone who is offensive. I dont get people sitting outside my house or anything obtrusive like that.
Its one of those things. If you are on TV people want to say hello, have their picture taken with you, and shake your hand or a kiss on the cheek. Im no A-list celebrity. Im happy to be Z-list. I didnt come into this to be a celebrity. Im an architect. Im not really interested in celebrity.
What does your wife make of it all and how did you meet?
Catriona just laughs about it. She finds it funny. Her brother is a musician in London and he heard about me years ago and asked if I would design his flat. He asked me along to a dinner party and she was there. She works for an entertainment company. Weve got
three kids. My eldest boy Georgie is
a mini-me. Hes seven. My youngest
boy is Emilio, five, and my little girl is Iona, three.
What do your children make of your TV fame?
They think everyones parents are on TV. They just take it for granted. Ive been on TV for six years so theyve grown up with it. Emilio doesnt understand why people want daddys name on a piece of paper. I dont want my kids growing up yearning for fame and celebrity. Its tragic how celebrity has become a profession.
For more information on George Clarkes favourite buildings, his new book and television shows and blog: www.georgeclarke.co.uk