The father of a family among the poorest 10 per cent of families in the UK says that taking part in Rich House Poor House has changed his life after he was able to realise his dream of attending university.
Antony Williams, 29, from Weston-super-Mare, swapped lifestyles with James Caddy, 59, and his family in the Channel 5 programme, and following the show was approached by Bristol University who offered financial aid for him to study Physics.
Antony told FEMAIL how appearing in the episode, which aired in March 2017, has been life-changing for him and how an opportunity to attend James’ alma mater Bristol University has been ‘like winning the lottery’.
The warehouse worker, who has six children between him and his wife Kayleigh, often struggled to make ends meet on their £110 per week budget, but in the heart-warming episode were able to take advantage of the Caddys’ £1,741 budget to treat their children.
Antony Williams outside their three-bed council house in Weston-super-Mare. (L-R) Kaden, mother Kayleigh, Lana, Shay, father Antony, Laila, AJ, Demisha and their dog, Misty Moo
Since Rich House Poor House aired Antony has developed a firm friendship with his millionaire counterpart James Caddy (right)
After the Channel 5 show aired the two fathers met, formed a fast friendship which Antony is forever grateful for saying that James was a ‘genuine person who’s opinions you respect’.
The follow up ‘Changing Lives’ episode catches up with a selection of the families featured in the first two series, including the duo.
Antony said he had been pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction to his episode and revealed how he had been inundated with offers of help from kind strangers since the swap.
His family received gifts of new trainers for his children, a washing machine to cope with their overflowing laundry load, their first ever holiday to Butlins and most importantly the offer from Bristol University which he doesn’t want to waste.
‘It means more to me then the average student because I’ve lived the life knowing what it’s like having to work the c*** jobs that no one else wants to do.
‘I’m looking at this as I stick it out for three years, yeah I might have very little money for the next three years but at the end of that I could actually change my life.
‘That is like winning the lottery.
‘I get this and I could not just change my life but everybody’s lives.’
He added that making his kids proud is pushing him to keep going: ‘I’ve been telling them all their life that you have to get a good education and get a good job, and then a better education and get a better job.
‘And now they’re actually going to see me do it. So I am going to lead by example.’
James, 59, pictured with his family outside their seven-bedroom mansion, took a keen interest in Antony’s education
After finding out Antony had an interest in physics James gave him textbooks that his children had used to help him further his own education
Antony and James from series one visited Bristol University to learn about what Bristol University can offer to mature students such as Antony, in particular for the physics degree Antony would like to study
For the physics enthusiast, his plan had always been to go into the army but after he had his son AJ, his focus shifted and his career took a backseat.
He has even been given science textbooks from James, who is semi-retired after selling his software company in 2004, to help further his education.
Antony explained that despite coming from different ends of the wealth divide, James, who has five children with his wife Claire and lives in a seven-bed mansion in Bristol, have very similar values.
That includes a love for fast food: ‘We don’t really talk about money. You can understand its in the back of your mind a bit, but we just talk like normal people.
‘James’ family have a lot of vegans and vegetarians, but James is obsessed with McDonald’s, every time he is dying for a McDonald’s he messages me.
‘It’s nice to go but when we do I only get to eat half of my meal because he always leans over and takes it.’
In the revisit episode Antony and James visit Bristol University to discover how Antony could enrol as a student and fulfil his greatest ambition of studying physics.
They meet the mature students team, who got in touch after the show aired originally explaining that it was possible for Antony to follow his dream and attend university.
They took part in experiments in the science lab which Antony said he ‘geeked out’ over during their trip
Antony, who said he falls asleep listening to lectures on quantum mechanics and astrology, is set to enrol on the first year of his access course at his local college in September, before then heading to the Bristol campus the following year.
He has some concerns about travel costs and childcare, but not wanting to worry James or let his family down, he has plans to hopefully find a way to learn how to drive.
But being friends with James has certainly changed his life for the better: ‘It’s given me a lot more determination to go to university and get a decent qualification.
‘It could actually change my life. In five years times I could be in a totally different situation.
‘James isn’t just what you’ve seen on the television, he rings [me] on a regular basis,’ Antony adds, explaining that James quizzes him and is going to loan him an old computer to help with his coursework.
Both men connected over the importance of education and to provide a better life for their children, and Antony gushed over what meeting James meant to him and his future.
‘The thing about James, I know he’s a lot better off than me, but he’s a genuine decent guy.’
Rich House Poor House Changing Lives airs tonight on Channel 5 at 9pm