Ministructures: We meet the BT Tower’s Brand Innovation Lead

In the coming weeks, artist Lucy Sparrow will be making cuddly mini versions of London’s iconic buildings out of felt. And as part of our new Ministructures series, we’ll be interviewing Londoners with a connection to the big buildings of the capital. This week, we chat to Jared Ruddy, 28, Brand Innovation Lead at BT and introduce him to our Baby BT Tower.

What do you do at the Tower?
‘I come up with ways to use technology to bring the Tower to life. I’ve got an office on the 35th floor. It’s just me up there in this little room full of equipment that powers the screen and acts as a control centre for when we do the fireworks and light shows.’

Not a bad view from the office, then.
‘It’s better than the one you get from the Shard. The Shard’s so tall that you lose that sense of vertigo.’

Do I sense a touch of tall building rivalry?
‘No, I suppose I’m just proud of the Tower.’

What do you like most about it?
‘I love that it’s quirky and it’s got a brilliant Britishness about it. And it’s got a great history – I mean, Billy Butlin [of holiday camp fame] used to run the restaurant. It’s definitely got a retro appeal.’

What’s the building actually used for these days?
‘Not many people realise that the BT Tower is still very much in action. Practically all of the fibre in London runs through it – transmitting everything from financial transactions in the City to football matches.’

BT Tower lightsaber

Photo © YoPizza on Flickr

You’ve done some cool things with the Tower over the years.
‘I think turning it into a lightsaber was probably the most abstract thing we’ve done. We did it to celebrate Star Wars coming out on Blu-Ray, but also because, for us, it was just an awesome thing to do. On the day that it happened a bunch of Stormtroopers turned up – it was completely unplanned, but they were just really excited.’

It must be fun writing stuff on the screen, too.
‘We call the screen ‘The Band’. It’s actually only been up since 2008 – it was built as part of the Olympic programme. We used it to announce the birth of Prince George recently. We were all monitoring the TV that day, and we had the two announcements ready to go – ‘It’s a boy’ and ‘It’s a girl’ – but then people started winding me up, telling me it could be twins.’

Speaking of babies, what do you think of our baby BT Tower?
‘It’s awesome. I get really enthusiastic about artist interpretations of the building.’

What do you get up to when you’re not working out how to turn the Tower into a giant laser?
‘I’m really into kitesurfing. I spend a lot of time on beaches in Southend in minus temperatures wrapped in neoprene. And I do a lot of Man Projects.’

What’s a Man Project?
‘I’ve got an engineer-y side to me, as you might guess from my job. If I had a shed I’d always be tinkering in it. Instead I have a little area in the front room of my flat in Islington. It drives my girlfriend mad.’

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