DIY SOS project backs resort’s young carers

Nick Knowles, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Pudsey at the DIY SOS Big Build at Blenheim House in Newton Drive
Nick Knowles, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Pudsey at the DIY SOS Big Build at Blenheim House in Newton Drive

Here are children doing what they do best – play.

It’s just one of the many projects made possible by BBC Children in Need.

DIY SOS electrician Billy Byrne and some of Blackpool's young carers

DIY SOS electrician Billy Byrne and some of Blackpool's young carers

It’s needed because the children pictured are young carers. They look after loved ones at home. Their contribution is crucial to family life.

They, and others like them across the country, are the reason why BBC DIY SOS is in Blackpool until Friday morning for a very special BBC Children in Need project.

The transformation of a run-down Victorian property on Newton Drive into one bespoke Young Carers Centre is this year’s BBC Children in Need Big Build.

So no wonder Pudsey himself turned up to trade high fives with Blackpool Carers Centre’s charity mascot Rocco the carers’ donkey – and to meet children at the charity’s youth club.

These children know that life can change just like that – in an instant

Two familiar faces at DIY SOS, who, like the hundreds of volunteers turning up daily, are working pretty much around the clock, up against everything the British summer has to throw at them, took time out from the build to say hello to the children too.

Electrician Billy Byrne and plasterer Chris Frediani were mobbed by young carers as soon as they entered the centre.

Both do the job for real off camera and away from the series. Chris started plastering at 17 and has been on DIY SOS since day one. His home’s in Devon so he’s come a long way for this build.

Billy is the master sparks, the electrician learned his trade in the 60s, another original member of the DIY SOS team, and dubbed The Prince of Darkness. He’s from Bristol.

Young carers meet Blackpool Carers Centre mascot Rocco the donkey.

Young carers meet Blackpool Carers Centre mascot Rocco the donkey.

Chris was visibly moved by new young carers’ co-champion Liam Quinn’s story – for the 16-year-old looked after his mum right up to her death in March.

And Billy met some of his biggest fans, including Emily Smith, who helps look after sister Jessica.

He was touched by the tale of award-winning volunteer Sarah Poyner, a carer herself, who’s also supporting the charity’s cash quest for carers, with a team called Claremont Crafty Carers running quizzes and table top sales.

Husband Chris was a builder, studying to be an architect, until a stroke and heart attack and other issues put paid to that dream. His three daughters assist Sarah in caring for their dad.

“We were a strong family unit before but this has made us more so and Chris is very much the heart of it,” says Sarah. “He would have given anything – back in the day – to be part of this build.

“He’s taken a really keen interest in it because obviously he knows the scale of what’s involved.”

Billy admitted: “These children they know that life can change just like – in an instant. And they are brilliant at how they cope. This is such an important build to us. And this visit has really touched our hearts. We know it means the world to them.”

This was no tokenistic visit just for the TV cameras. Both men spent several hours with the children, staff and volunteers running the Claremont club.

The pair, and Pudsey too, posed for endless selfies. And, of course, Pudsey made a new friend too – Rocco.

The charity has a donkey mascot because they are synonymous with the seaside, and here in Blackpool they have their own Donkey Charter to cover working conditions, weights carried, regular breaks – and Fridays off. That’s more than most carers get.

The programme will be broadcast in mid November for Children in Need Week. Meantime, those builders, plasterers, electricians and more are very much around in the resort – so watch out for daily appeals for help on Twitter @DIYSOS and @BlackpoolCarers

Teenage apprentice to make screen debut on popular TV show

A teenage apprentice will be making his screen debut after accepting a challenge from popular TV programme DIY SOS.

Ryan Turner is working on a project to revamp the grounds of Blenheim House, Newton Drive, Blackpool, alongside presenter Nick Knowles and his team.

Once complete it will become a centre for the town’s young carers.

Ryan, 18, is one of two apprentices at South Ribble Borough Council taking part in the popular show.

He and Alex Brobbin, 20, both began two-year horticultural apprenticeships with neighbourhood services last October and are among dozens of tradesmen who are giving their time and skills free of charge to complete the seven-day challenge.

Both apprentices work on grounds maintenance around the borough and the three days they are spending in Blackpool complement their usual tasks of looking after roadside verges, bedding plant display, parks and hedges.

Ryan said: “It’s great fun and really good experience to work with different people. We’re on site for three days and basically we’ve started by clearing the gardens of brambles and weeds in preparation for the transformation work to begin.”

Coun Peter Mullineaux, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and street scenes, said: “This is a great opportunity for these two young men to make a significant contribution to a worthwhile project and at the same time consolidate their growing bank of skills.”