TV presenter Kevin McCloud jokes 'I'm insulted' after being asked about retirement

Kevin McCloud takes us behind the scenes of Grand Designs, The Great Climate Fight and his first live UK tour

Kevin McCloud at an awards ceremony
Kevin McCloud is a household name and been on our TV for decades. (Getty)

TV presenter Kevin McCloud has jested he was "insulted" after being asked about whether he would consider retirement. The star, who has fronted Grand Designs since 1999, joked: "I was quite insulted by that… [leaving a pause] I’m teasing, I’m teasing."

In all seriousness though, the 64-year-old TV star then mulled over the prospect of retirement and vowed to continue with filming Grand Designs for as long as he can stand the cold. "As long as I enjoy doing it," he told Yahoo. "There are lots of negatives to making television. One is the hours and another is the amount you travel. I mean, 50% of my working life is travelling, but I enjoy that. Now, I sit with my laptop and the weather being out in the cold is really hard this time of year because you're standing still all day, you lose vast amounts of heat, but I now have electric socks."

Waiting in the cold can be gruelling, the presenter revealed. He said: "For one forty second or minute long interview may take an hour or an hour and a half to do. So you just waiting for the plane to go, the cars to go by the bin lorry, the guys to stop using cameras on site, whatever it is. You're waiting for the sun to be in the right place, the clouds to go, the cameraman to get a new battery, the sound guy to fiddle around with his microphone and yeah, that's all. It's all inexplicable. There's a lot of waiting but I'm patient. I don't have a problem with waiting, it is the cold. So as long as I can cope with that, I keep on doing it."

Alternatively, though, the presenter joked perhaps a move to sunnier climes would help too so he could carry on working there with the Grand Designs TV crew. "Otherwise we'll just move to Barbados," he quipped.

Home Truths

This January McCloud is embarking on his first UK live tour, Home Truths, which will delve into the behind the scenes of Grand Designs as well as the secrets to designing your own home and more. The TV host lifted the lid on how doing a live tour can be "more scary" than pre-recorded TV - with the evening taking on a Q&A format.

"I'm very used to standing in front of an audience, but it's somehow it's bigger and it's more scary when it's in a theatre and you feel the stakes are higher, because you want people to enjoy it and come away excited, having had fun," he said. "You get hecklers and people come in late and then the microphone stops working and the slides don't work in the right order. But you just deal with it and people like it because in a way, it's more fun, more real."

During his live show, McCloud takes the audience behind the scenes of Grand Designs. "It's really important to preserve the mystique," he said. "What I'm gonna show is a few of the back stories of people, people's own lives and also how we do it, how we make it. How it's graded, how we cheat, how we film, how important it is to give credit to the editors and the guys in the colouring in room." He added: "I'm always a little bit nervous about showing people some of the tricks of television because it sort of demystifies it. But on the other hand, people love it."

Behind the scenes of Grand Designs

Kevin McCloud looks at the year's most stunning homes. (Channel 4)
Kevin McCloud is the star of Grand Designs. (Channel 4)

Despite appearing cool and collected on Grand Designs, the presenter admitted there have been many times he has been surprised on the series. "Gosh, there are so many," he said. "Turning up to discover the couple have split up the night before, that's a good one."

There was one build that has struck him as the most jaw-dropping moments of all the 20 series so far. Featuring on Grand Designs in 2007, Chris Miller and his wife Sze Liu Lai invited the cameras into their lives when they begun to give the barge a makeover - however, it was far from plain sailing.

McCloud remembered: "I remember there was a moment where we were filming a houseboat being done and there was no architect or designer and in fact, the owner didn't even care where his materials came from. He would look on the internet and just buy stuff when he felt like it. And so the whole thing I did a piece to camera which said this isn't an episode of Grand Designs, it feels like an episode of Scrapheap Challenge.

The houseboat on Grand Designs. (Channel 4 screengrab)
The houseboat on Grand Designs. (Channel 4 screengrab)

"And it seemed to break every rule and of course, in the end, the house that this houseboat ended up actually getting lost at sea. It floated off, down the Thames and out into the North Sea, then it then later washed up somewhere else. And I just read recently, some couple have decided to kind of restore it."

Naturally as a designer, McCloud can't resist getting involved with the builds on Grand Designs both on and off camera. "I do a lot of that on camera," he said. "But some of it just doesn't make the cut because I'm not seen to be meddling. Off camera, I meddle a great deal... Or I'll tell people that what they're doing is really not up to par and that they should really speak to another firm or just point them in the direction of a spreadsheet or a supplier or some help because people need it."

Reflecting on errors people make on Grand Designs, McCloud joked people shouldn't build homes full stop. "The biggest negative piece of advice I can possibly give anybody is just don't do it," he joked. But the designer had no qualms pointing out the biggest mistakes people make. He said: "I often say to people you could have made this house two thirds the size and you wouldn't have noticed in the house of shrunk overnight to be two thirds the size it is, you would not even notice. I think that's a terrible waste of resources and time and money and everything. I think just trying to be doing too much is what we're all guilty of it. We buy too much food. We over plan. We over want, we over reach, I think that's a difficulty. But then if we didn't do that we'd all be living in holes in the ground."

Even in the hardest of times, McCloud revealed people are spurred on by hope. "You can't show people the future, you can only warn them," he said. "Even in the worst situations, Edward Short - who borrowed millions to finish his lighthouse that he is still trying to sell in Devon - even at his worst moment, he was still full of hope and that's the most amazing thing to discover the energy that human beings have... Goodness me, they become superhuman."

The Grand Designs episode revisited a Devon lighthouse. (Channel 4)
The Grand Designs episode revisited a Devon lighthouse. (Channel 4)

Death on Grand Designs

Even the Grand Designs' TV crews can't prepare for everything as over the years some people embarking on the projects have died. Dealing with death is difficult but McCloud has lifted the lid on how the TV crews cover it respectfully. "We might be in five years of people's lives or 10 years," he said. "And so we watch children grow up and we experience mother-in-laws moving in and people getting ill and babies being born and it's all part of the narrative.

"It's sad of course, and difficult to deal with, but I've dealt with it enough times now to know how you do it on camera and you do it very respectfully, you deal with every one of these situations, very respectfully. These people are not being paid, they're not actors. They are people who are doing this because they've volunteered and they've let us into their lives, which is a privilege for us.

"So the way we've respond is by covering things as well as we can but always with a degree of humility and respect. Those are our guidelines. We spend a lot of time talking, for example about our duty of care to people." He added: "We tell a story and each story is true. It really matters to us that the people are filming that they can watch it with their friends and feel that it is an accurate true account of what happened."

Among the latest Grand Designs projects, McCloud has started filming with an individual who has a terminal disease. He said: "We're just beginning a Grand Designs' project where one of the individuals is suffering from a terminal disease and we pray and hope that they make it through and make a recovery. That's what we want."

The Great Climate Fight

Kevin McCloud revealed he has been reported to the police in a preview of The Great Climate Fight.
Kevin McCloud revealed he has been reported to the police in a preview of The Great Climate Fight. (Channel 4)

Worlds away from Grand Designs, McCloud recently starred on The Great Climate Fight where he took a stand about climate change in order to try bring about change. McCloud was shocked to find out he had been reported to the police over a misunderstanding when he tried to get a press ticket for a book launch with Michael Gove, where he planned to challenge the MP about housing.

Looking back at the moment in the show, he said: "There is a scene where we were in a taxi, we're filming, we get in a taxi to go to this event and we hear these police sirens behind." And he joked: "Now they're coming to arrest me!"

Jokes aside, McCloud recognised there is an element of risk in standing up and urging the government to do more about climate change. He said: "When you begin this kind of campaigning work, you realise that there's a danger attached to it. There is a risk attached to it and I've put my head above the parapet and I know that there's a political risk to what I've done. I know that there's a commercial risk because there will be companies who are offended by what I've said and what the statements I've made.

"I know that there is also a risk to me as a citizen that if I get arrested, I’ll end up with maybe a criminal record. It doesn't stop me wanting to do it. And also I'm old enough now not to be frightened by any of that. It's easier for me to do than people who've got young children."

However, McCloud remains passionate to shining a light on climate change - whatever the risk. He said: "At my age it would be very easy to just say it's not my problem, but it is my fault along with other people my age - my generation, we caused all this, I've lived through this post war period. I was born in the fifties. So I've lived through this period of amazing consumption where we just basically set fire to the planet just to see what would happen. The companies even know are digging up more and more of it to try and find more oil to burn. And all this is doing is decimating our wildlife and destroying our wealth for future generations."

Being a grandfather inspires McCloud to bring about change. He added: "I'm a grandfather. So I want a world that my grandson can inherit. I don't want a world that he's going to find it harder than ever to live in... So, I could do nothing or I could do something. And the best thing I could do is not join a political party but make a program about it and talk about it."

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Watch Kevin McCloud reported to police in The Great Climate Fight