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AFTER THE CAMERAS HAVE GONE

AGENDA

Since production company Endemol first introduced hit series Big Brother to our screens, the public has been continually subjected to the show's famecrazed winners becoming 'celebs du jour'.

Big Brother stars are given agents, tabloid deals, TV work and even, in some sorry cases, a music career.

However, as another of Endemol's hugely successful series, Restoration, hits the BBC airwaves this summer for a third series in the form of Restoration Village, one of its previous winners is still waiting for its chance to bask in the limelight.

Work is yet to begin on two medieval structures in Kings Norton, Birmingham, despite them becoming the public's favourite at-risk buildings more than two years ago.

The two buildings - a 13th-century grammar school and a 15th-century pub called the Saracen's Head - received more than 750,000 votes from the public in the second series of Restoration, helping them to top the table and secure more than £500,000 to help with the rescue project.

But the buildings' owner, Kings Norton Parochial Church, claims it has been left disillusioned by its TV victory.

'The day we won, we thought things would take about a year, ' says the Reverend Heather Flack. 'The project has made everyone [in the project team] sceptical. We thought everything would happen more quickly.'

The church team hopes work will finally start in September this year, but this is dependent on the unlikely chance of archaeologists not finding anything on the 800year-old site.

The team says it has not been supported enough by Endemol, and feels that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), along with planners, could be making life easier.

'Endemol haven't really given enough help to the winners, ' says Flack. 'They just come to the site and film every so often.

'And the HLF is not the easiest body to work with.

Our guys just do what they're told.

'The poor frazzled people working on the project are looking more frazzled each day.

'It hasn't been easy. We've had to battle with English Heritage, the city planners who originally said they couldn't touch the school building at all, and the diocese, which needed to give planning permission for any work to be done.'

Endemol and the BBC have defended their positions as producer and broadcaster of the series, and believe there is little they could have done to speed things up.

An Endemol spokesman says: 'It was always going to be a lengthy process and restoration projects do take time. We have always had a very good working relationship with the Kings Norton project team, and are surprised to hear these comments.

'We are just making a show, and there was never any claim that we would help with the work. We feel we have done as much as we can.'

Architect and Restoration presenter Ptolemy Dean echoes Endemol's sentiments, saying that it is a case of biting the hand that feeds.

'The TV programmers cannot be blamed, ' he says.

'They are bringing these buildings to the greater public, giving them the opportunity to make these at-risk historic buildings their own responsibility.

'The HLF also can't really be blamed - it is the holder of public funds and is subject to audit commissions.

'There can seem to be a lot of hoops to jump through, but they have the best interests of the funding public at heart.

They're merely doing what they are supposed to, however frustrating.

'Many buildings have this sort of trouble, but at least they [Kings Norton] have now got the money. They knew full well what the implications of entering the competition would be.

'It seems rather rich for them to hold their hands out only to slap the hand that gave the money.'

Dean continues: 'For all the programme's faults it's doing a very good thing - and that's getting these historical buildings restored.'

The team looking after the winner of Restoration's first series, the Victoria Baths in Manchester, empathised with Kings Norton's position, but said they were well aware of the lengths they would need to go to on their own project before work funded by the Restoration win could begin.

Gill Wright, of the Victoria Baths Trust, says: 'The baths project is massive and incredibly complex. However, we were expecting delays, as we are a trust and know how long things such as planning permission and funding acceptance can take.

'We weren't, however, expecting the added pressures being in the public eye would bring. I think the public thought the restoration would happen more quickly, so now we have to manage those expectations as well.'

Like Big Brother, the fame Restoration has brought to its winners seems to have affected them in rather different ways - but it is unlikely Endemol would have expected prima donnas from both shows.

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