Inventor Tom's fantastic floating home

Inventor Tom's fantastic floating home

Tom Lawton and son Barney

Inventor Tom's fantastic floating home

First published in News

MALMESBURY inventor Tom Lawton and his young son Barney are due to appear on national TV on Sunday after inventing a fantastic floating home.

Tom and his six-year-old assistant, transformed a derelict boat as part of the series for Channel 4.

Equipped with everything from pop up furniture, an aquaponic garden and a solar jellyfish design to provide lighting, the vessel, named Necessity, even had an air-powered cold drinks cannon and an amphibious bicycle.

The pair had help from a small team including an engineer, but Tom said it was still a challenge to complete in a short space of time.

“The experience was utterly brilliant,” he said. “Such a creative challenge and so fulfilling yet insanely frustrating at the same time.

“ I would never normally put myself under such pressure - to conceive, conceptualise and develop a first stage prototype for over two dozen original ideas - all in a period of less than four months, starting with no pre-conceived ideas whatsoever. “ He explained: “There was no master plan. The budgets weren't big either which meant we had to be pretty resourceful. “ Tom stopped researching on the internet because he found it a distraction.

“At the start, every time I thought of something novel I found something similar on the web, which isn't surprising given there's 7billion of us with similar aspirations, experiencing the same frustrations, so I turned it off.”

He also learned a lot about working with a TV crew.

“TV's only really interested in what's happening in front of the camera while designing real things is all about finishing off the back of the drawer - the bit that no one normally ever sees. There was no time for that approach. It was all a bit manic. But wow! What an experience,” he said.

He was met with a number of problems including how to collect light and pipe it into the boat and how to make it secure.

“I generated over 30, maybe 40 original ideas and we whittled these down to what would work best for TV - so sadly my un-welcome doormat security system that triggers the sound of a scratching, growling guard dog from behind the boat door didn't make the cut because sound doesn't translate as well on TV as big visual things.”

Barney was closely involved in the process.

“He's at the age where his imagination and creativity are as bright as the sun. He was the perfect companion on such an adventure for many reasons, but mostly because he made it more fun ,” said Tom.

“He helped me keep a cool head. I refrained from taking the project too seriously with him at my side. Kids are brilliantly honest too - you can't sell them an idea, they either get it or they don't.

“Goodness knows if he'll ever decide to follow in my footsteps but he's pretty comfortable with a radio mike on, standing in front of or behind the camera and talking with authority to a crew of grownups. I can see him being a future Spielberg.”

The first episode of Tom’s Fantastic Floating Home is on Channel 4 at 7pm on Sunday.

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