Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee speaks to Addam Smith, the man who inadvertently found himself at the head of Band of Builders, an assorted group of tradesmen who came together to help a builder in need.
If you follow anything construction related on social media, there’s no doubt that you would have already come across the Band of Builders. With a snappy name, iconic logo and infectious enthusiasm the group is hard not to notice, but the story behind it and what it represents is what really matters.
I caught up with Addam Smith, whose initial post on the Builders Talk Group Facebook page, venting about best friend Keith’s diagnosis for terminal cancer, kick-started this marching band.
“It started around January last year,” Addam begins telling me, “when we found out that Keith had terminal cancer. He wasn’t swallowing great so I told him to go and see his doctor, thinking it was probably nothing – a week later he got the results back saying he had terminal cancer.”
From that point on, nothing about Keith and Addam’s story has been usual or predictable. As he explains to me every new twist and turn in the plot, a truly inspiring story begins to emerge.
That evening Keith turned to the Builders Talk Group on Facebook, a page dedicated to general builder’s chat that at the time had just over 12,000 members, and which today has 51,000.
“I wasn’t asking for sympathy or money or anything,” he tells me, “I was just asking them to spare a thought for Keith.”
Thinking that would be the end of it, Addam was shocked to learn the next morning that builders from the group were contacting him directly asking to donate money for Keith.
Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, he set up a GoFundMe page to collect the donations. Asked to set a target amount, he set it at a modest £200, thinking “we might be able to send him for a weekend in Skegness.”
What happened next is something the landscaper still can’t fathom: “Within about 24 hours the lads from the Facebook page had raised about £8,000. I was so surprised by the response. I can’t really put it into words to be honest.”
Addam started updating the group regularly with videos documenting the situation. It was on one of these videos that he mentioned in passing that, as a landscaper, he was going to do up Keith’s garden for him.
“As soon as I said that I was inundated with messages asking to help. I had sparkies asking if they could come push barrows just to help out,” he tells me, still surprised, “I said ‘look mate, you’ll be no good to me, you’ll just be getting in my way to be honest.’
“But then I had a thought – if you’re a sparkie or a kitchen fitter you could put in a new kitchen or fit some lighting instead, do something I can’t. So I put out a message asking if I could sort out the gear, then who would be up for coming to help do the whole house up, rather than just the garden. Well, it went crazy.”
“I had hundreds of private messages, from lads all over the country – even from Ireland. We sent Keith away for a week in a log cabin, and I went around trade merchants collecting materials, relying purely on donations as I didn’t want to take it out of Keith’s money.
About 50 tradesmen took the week off work to help out. I asked Addam how it felt to essentially do the same work during your holiday, only unpaid: “If you ask anyone who was there, they’ll say it wasn’t ‘work’. Normally you’re not jumping for joy on Monday morning, but the buzz on site was amazing. It still humbles me to think of what we did.”
This is where ‘Band of Builders’ comes in. It started as a phrase Addam used in one of the videos describing the group of tradesmen that turned up to help and it seemed to strike a chord with people.
“One of the lads decided to get some t-shirts made up and made a design for it. It was brilliant. We’d also raised about 30 grand by then, and had decided we could actually buy Keith’s house for him from the council.
“We’d been in the local paper and were in full fundraising mode by then, so we started selling hoodies, t shirts and beanies.”
Since then the group has raised just over £53,000 in the effort to buy Keith’s house for him, which is an incredible achievement, and a testament to the generosity and brotherhood that exists among tradesmen.
Addam admits, however, that it’s a particularly modern invention that made this all happen: “This would never have happened without social media.
“Not in a million years would I have reached out the way I did on my personal Facebook page, only on that group. We’re all cut from the same cloth on that group. We’re all grafters. I actually felt more comfortable because they’re strangers.”
I asked Addam one last question: Why? “I think it’s because we’re all in the same boat – it could have been any one of us. The story has brought hardened builders to tears. When builders see what we’ve done, they recognise the effort that’s gone into it. It’s worth so much more than any money you could ever give.”
For more information and to get involved visit www.bandofbuilders.com