Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Trust in Big Brother house venture

The National Trust is to open the Big Brother House at Elstree Studios to the public
The National Trust is to open the Big Brother House at Elstree Studios to the public

The National Trust has raised eyebrows by announcing it is to open up TV's Big Brother House to the public.

The custodian of many of the UK's most important properties will give visitors the chance to visit the custom-built house across two days later this month.

But the plan has already drawn scorn from former MP Ann Widdecombe who said she was "saddened" by the move and said the Trust should concentrate on properties which had "stood the test of time".

The property with its ever-changing decor has been home to figures such as Vinnie Jones, Ivana Trump and Alex Reid who have taken part in Celebrity Big Brother over the years. It is currently being used for the latest series which is due to end later this week.

The property, housed on a plot at the Elstree TV studios, has been seen by millions during the many series on Channel 4 and more lately on Channel 5. It will open to the public on September 27 and 28.

The National Trust's London director Ivo Dawnay said: "The fact that the housemates' residence is not, say, a sublime late Robert Adam country house does not necessarily make it less interesting. The great houses of our past reflected the tastes of the day and so does the Big Brother House. "

He added: "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."

But Miss Widdecombe - a former contestant on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm rather saddened by this. I'm a member of the National Trust and I'm not going to be burning my membership card because of this, but I don't think it's part of the National Trust's mission."

Miss Widdecombe said she accepted that the Trust should update its portfolio and not "just wholly go for historic homes", but questioned whether it should be getting involved with the Big Brother house, rather than BBC Television Centre, which is due for redevelopment.

"I do think something has to stand the test of time before you can seriously call it heritage," she said. "I don't think it needs to be tawdry and celebrity-obsessed. There's lots of candidates around that I think you could choose for this sort of exercise."

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