Enter the Big Brother house: National Trust tours Elstree Studios home of Channel 5 show

By Ben Miller | 10 September 2013

Its decision to open the residence Big Brother contestants call home has prompted bemusement, criticism and mutterings about cancellations by its members. But the National Trust has defended its decision to open the setting for the original reality television show, at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, to the public later this month.

A photo of a colourful stairway in the middle of a modern house
Enter the Big Brother house at the end of September© Courtesy Channel 5 / National Trust
Better known for its hip furniture and inter-housemate spats than its inherent heritage value, the Big Brother house will host guided tours during a two-day opening – the first in a series of Lates special events planned by the Trust.

An invitation-only Opening Gala will be attended by former housemates, social commentators and “starry celebs”, with an accompanying studio debate which the Trust anticipates will become a “frivolous panel discussion”.

“The Trust has always been about getting people into special places,” said a pre-emptive announcement on the organisation’s blog.

“There is no doubt that this particular Palace of Varieties, housed in Elstree Studios, is a genuine residence and special to many – in fact, arguably, more special than most.

“It has been described by more than one TV critic as ‘the most important house in Britain’. The Trust likes important houses.

“The fact that the garden is not the parterre at Cliveden but is more like the astro-turfed gardening section of a DIY store actually makes it more relevant, or at least more comprehensible, to modern society.

“The Great Houses of our past reflected the tastes of the day and so does the Big Brother House.”

The Trust’s anticipation of some controversy proved correct. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe – a former contestant on fellow vote-driven show Strictly Come Dancing – questioned the decision.

Twitter users expressed concern that the house was being compared with historic landmarks. One writer called the move a “shameless sign in words of how desperation for populist PR pollutes reason” and “a terrible misstep”, while another said it could “hardly be further away” from the Trust’s “core purpose”.

But comments on Big Brother fansite bbspy.co.uk were more excitable, with one viewer calling it a “great idea”.

The Guardian called the Trust an “unexpected saviour” of the occasionally-maligned house.

Perhaps most tellingly, tickets for the tours – which only went on sale yesterday, priced at £16 and £12 – appear to have already sold out.

  • House opens on September 27 and 28 2013. Read the full blog post from the Trust.

More pictures:

A photo of colourful beds inside a bright modern house
© Courtesy Channel 5 / National Trust
A photo of a circular table surrounded by green chairs inside a bright modern house
© Courtesy Channel 5 / National Trust
A photo of various colourful bits of furniture inside a house with wooden walls
© Courtesy Channel 5 / National Trust
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