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Saturday 04 February 2017

Building The Future: TV Builder Tommy Walsh To Design Working Space 'As Smart As The People Working In It'

He was a major part of one of the BBC's most popular series, but Tommy Walsh has now turned his talents to building a more comfortable future for us all.


For fans of gardening programmes, Tommy Walsh is the good-natured giant of a builder who, alongside Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock and sidekick Willy, fronted BBC'sGround Force for nearly a decade. 

His endearing popularity with viewers aside, Walsh's next project is one that ditches the rose-tinted glasses for a look into the nation's working future to design the perfect office for an older generation of employees that is "as smart as the people working in it."

It was a chance that the ever-innovative Walsh "jumped at."

"I've always had an interest in housing, and I embrace green issues and ideas on how to get people to save money by being far more efficient in their use of energy,"intones the Hackney-born builder. 

"The one thing we can't do anything about is stopping the rising cost of energy – all we can do is use it more efficiently. 

"I get pleasure out of new modern ideas and things I might not have thought about too much in the past. This ticked all the boxes when they asked me to be involved."

As well as being able to draw on the experience he has gained via a long building career both on and off the telly – including making his personal Victorian property "a successful marriage between the aesthetics of the period and the advantages of living in a modern, very efficient home" – Walsh was surprised that he was in fact designing an office not for tech-savvy and confident millennials, but rather people just like him.

"I'm sixty now, and it's sort of crept up on me – it was only a couple of weeks ago that I was thirty, I'm sure!" Walsh laughs. 

"I suppose it teaches you how short life can be, so you have to embrace every element of it. The fact is that we've got an ageing population and people are going to have to be employed longer. 

"So to get the most out of staff and them keep being productive, you have to create the right environment for them."

In order to take his building acumen into the technical pinnacle of the 21st century and beyond, Walsh decided to draw inspiration from his own perception of getting older. 


"What would appeal to me?" Walsh explains. "Ergonomics are crucial. But also, so is acoustics. 

"Quite often when you have a very contemporary office and it has a few little items of furniture in a big space all painted white, the acoustics aren't great.

"There are a lot of echoes and hard tinny sounds, which are not conducive to doing good business if you're on the phone or talking to people.

"One of the main things that came out in the focus was that older workers felt intimidated by younger workers," he reveals. 

"We have to remember the value older workers can bring and we have to make sure we embrace them and that we respect and value their real worth. 

"For me, there's nothing I like better than working with a youngster - they'll bring enthusiasm to the table, they're eager for knowledge, eager to learn, but it's a two-way street. It gives you more energy and it makes you think a little bit more along their lines."

And thankfully for fans of Ground Force, it"s clear the effortless charm and readiness to have a laugh that made Walsh a national mainstay haven"t diminished despite the advancing years.

"My enthusiasm and my ambitions haven't changed one iota," he agrees

"I find that whereas one time I might have picked up two bags of cement, thrown them on my shoulder and run around the corner, now I might take one and use it more carefully, or put the two in a wheelbarrow. Or even better, get someone else to pick it up for you! 

"My father used to tell me, he said 'Son, there"s no point in getting older if you don't get wiser'. And I think that"s so true."

Aside from his jobs a TV producer and building expert, and even the "novel or two" on the way, the real question is – in a modern era full of reboots and reunions – will we ever see the original Ground Force team together again?

"I think the formula was great, and if they can find the right ingredients they'll bring it back so we can have a whole new audience of Ground Force-lovers," Walsh explains. 

"They have to get people who are passionate about what they, with some of the same characteristics we had, but also slightly the change the format. 

It would be nice to guest on it though - I still do TV, and play football, so I do a lot of things that I probably shouldn't, as my wife tells me when I wake up on Monday aching and moaning!

"Ground Force was family viewing across the board. If there was any innuendo in it that would make the adults laugh, it would go over the heads of the kids anyway. 

"It was never rude or vulgar, it would be done with a straight face or a wry smile to the camera. It was a cheeky little show."

Until that time, however, the infectiously enthusiastic Walsh is more than happy to just see where life takes him.

"Who would have thought that we would get to travel the world? We had an audience of 42 million Americans - who would have thought that was possible when we started our little half-hour gardening show?" he laughs. 

"It just goes to show, you never know what's round the corner, but it's one of the things I like about life, you never know what's going to happen tomorrow!"

Research shows that there is a worrying level of employee nervousness around age related issues, which are in turn being exacerbated by an unhelpful workplace environment. Tommy Walsh and recruitment website totaljobs are working together to design an office of the future, to accommodate Britain's ageing workforce. Find out more info here:

by: Jake Taylor - via Interview Hub




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