Nick Knowles“All those things that we think make a difference between us disappear.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Nick Knowles has a deeply personal motivation for hosting DIY SOS, the home rescue show he’s fronted for 20 years. They’ve done it all, from building a community centre at the Grenfell Tower fire site, to carrying out renovations for families struggling to cope with devastating illness. Nick told Ryan Tubridy today he does the show in memory of his dad, a former RAF flight sergeant, who died after suffering a debilitating stroke:

“Part of the reason I do DIY SOS is kind of trying to make up for the fact that the last year my dad was alive, I didn’t go and see him as often as I should have because he wasn’t himself and a stroke does that to you, it sort of changes your emotional balance and things. And I found that quite difficult, just really emotional to see my dad in that state. Then he passed away after a year and I hadn’t been to see him enough, and I thought, well, what a let-down of a son I was for doing it.”

Nick says he channelled his regret into reporting on the toughest cases in the series City Hospital, involving palliative care and children with cancer. He says he turned his guilt over his dad into something positive:

“I hadn’t done very well with my own dad, but I could actually tell stories for people and make up for it a little bit.”

Given where he’s ended up, it’s no surprise that Nick Knowles comes from a long line of Irish builders. He’s also a fantastic story teller and the tales are all the juicier because of his tendency to re-write the rules. From blagging his way into a TV journalism job in Australia with no credentials and zero experience, to meticulously planning the humiliation of a schoolteacher who was picking on his friend for stammering, Nick says he’s had a mixed relationship with authority. He staged a minor coup on I’m a Celebrity… Get me Out of Here! by encouraging kindness over conflict in the jungle:

“I think the production got more and more frustrated with me. And then when it came out, I was thinking I was going to get really told off because the viewing figures were terrible because everyone had got on, and the viewing figures were great and everybody really enjoyed it because everybody got on.”

Nick seems happiest bringing together large, diverse groups of people to work on some common cause and then sit down to eat together afterwards. He says the effect of working together is magical:

“All those things that we think make a difference between us disappear.”

Nick Knowles says he’s looking forward to the Irish version of DIY SOS with Baz Ashmawy, who he describes as “like me, only funnier.”

You can listen to Nick’s chat with Ryan Tubridy, including more on I’m a Celebrity…, his drastic solution to solve Brexit, and his move from a big house in London to a tiny cottage in the countryside in the full interview here.

The Irish version of DIY SOS is coming to RTÉ, presented by Baz Ashmawy. Anyone interested in participating can find details and an application form here.

Ruth Kennedy

© The Listener 2019

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