The year 2020 will certainly live long in our memories and when it comes to the history books, it will go down as one of the worst years known to mankind.
There is no doubt that the pandemic, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our lives as people have suffered greatly whether it be the loss of a loved one and or losing their jobs, 2020 has been cruel to many.
However, in Ireland, it has also shown a different side to our nature and one that probably doesn’t get enough exposure as when people are faced with adversity, there is always someone there to help out. During the first lockdown in particular, there were numerous fundraisers held for causes and there were millions raised throughout the year to help those most in need, it was incredible to see the amount of people coming out of their comfort zones to do different things to help out a cause that the majority had no real connection too.
This certainly painted Irish people in a good light and this was seen at a national level when DIY SOS hit our screens in October. Only three episodes of the RTE show were aired, but it had a nation talking once again.
This was not just an ordinary DIY show where a group comes in and does up an old home, oh no, this was much more than that. Hosted by the Baz Ashmawy whose ability to connect with everyone on the show has to be commended. As well as allowing the viewer to feel the emotions of the people involved, the show gave us all a different perspective on life, by showing there is someone worse off than ourselves.
Baz is obviously at the forefront of the show, which includes many different characters, two of which are the Foreman or ‘Gaffer’, Alan Kilkenny and Build Manager, Jonathon Davis or ‘Johnno’ as he is more commonly known. Sophie Pozzey is the project manager.
The guys have been in the building trade all their lives and are business partners running the very successful Sycamore Construction, a Bray based construction company that has specialised in one-off houses, extensions and renovations for the past 20 years. Sophie project manages and Serena Kilkenny handles accounts.
Alan takes up the story of why they became involved in DIY SOS, a show that has been running on the BBC for many years at this stage.
“I think the producers saw our website and what we specialise in and felt we were the type of company they were looking for, so they gave us a call and we set up a meeting,” said Alan.
“To be honest a number of meetings were held before it was finally given the green light. Obviously we had concerns about continuing to run our own business, but the three projects fitted in well around other work that we were doing.”
The shows were developed in Limerick, Tipperary and Kildare with all three touching the heartstrings of the nation as the programmes left viewers shedding a tear or two on occasion.
Alan admits that they were delighted to get involved in such a project, allowing them to give something back.
“We were delighted to be involved, there is no doubt about that. It was a great learning experience to be involved in such projects. They were so different from anything that we ever did in the fact that you were trying to manage so many people on the one project as the amount of volunteers willing to give up their time on each of the shows was incredible.
“The one thing that struck me was that despite the pressure of getting the work done in nine days, everyone got along and there was a feel good factor on all the jobs. I do think the fact that there was no profit involved meant that everyone was more relaxed and that helped us get through the work.”
The three shows hit a chord with the Irish nation as each story pulled at the heart strings and just showed us that there was always someone worse off than ourselves and there is no doubt that DIY SOS gave the nation a much needed lift.
“Like I said, it was great for us to be involved and it is something that will live with us for the rest of our lives. I definitely believe we have learned a lot from it and hopefully it is something we can continue doing in the future. When the family involved says ‘thank you’ once the work is done, it certainly makes it all worthwhile.”
For now though, it is back to the day job for Alan, Johnno, Sophie and Serena as they focus on Sycamore Construction where they have a busy workload ahead of them.
“We have three jobs ongoing at the moment, the furthest being in Leopardstown, which is only a few miles down the road, but most of our work would be in the Bray area. We’ve actually got a couple of jobs on my road, so we don’t have to travel too much thankfully.”
Sycamore Construction’s reputation for providing quality work precedes them and they have attracted the majority of their work through word of mouth, which in Alan’s opinion is the best form of advertisement.
“We wouldn’t really advertise at all to be honest, usually one job leads to another. We know how important it is that the client is satisfied. We work closely with them to ensure this.”
The company employs six direct, but they use a number of sub-contractors that have been with them years and Alan admits that they work well as a team.
“We would know the subbies well and there are guys that have been with us years. We all work well together and have a common goal of delivering to the highest standard possible.
4 Old Brighton Terrace,
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This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, January 2021, Vol 7 No 1