Piece Hall, Halifax, July 8.
Entry free no pre booking needed
The Piece Hall is set for another bumper crowd following the recent Chow Down as BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow visits on Sunday for its 41st series. Fiona Bruce has been at the helm for 11 years and tells us a little about the show and herself.
Q: What’s it like working on the show and were you a fan before you presented it?
A: I was a regular viewer before I got the dream job of presenting it. If you work in television, to find yourself on a programme that the nation has taken to its heart it is a rare privilege.
Q: What do you enjoy about the day of recording?
A: I’m not an antiques expert so I don’t value items on the day but I do know what items make a good story and how to tell it. So much of what you see on the roadshow is the story behind the item and the story of the owner - our dream combination is great story, great owner, and great value. Some of the most moving stories stick in my mind, many I will never forget, such as the man who brought along a set of GI medals from the Second World War. His story began with his finding a cache of love letters written to his mother by an American GI who had had an affair with her while his father was away serving in the Second World War. The letters revealed that his mother had had a baby with this man and it became apparent to him that he was that child. As you can imagine, it was a huge shock and very distressing. Everything he had known and believed about his childhood turned out to be based on a lie. As his parents had died recently, he couldn’t ask them about it and his aunt told him she was sworn to secrecy. He tracked down the GI’s family in Virginia who welcomed him with open arms and filled in the gaps. They told him that his father had agreed to forgive the infidelity and bring the baby up as his own - and indeed loved him as such all his life - and the American GI decided reluctantly to stay away so as not to make a delicate situation even more difficult. The GI’s descendants knew all about the baby being brought up in Britain and were thrilled to meet him at last. It was a very moving experience for all of them. The man came to the roadshow with his American GI father’s war medals, which the family had decided should go to his newly discovered son. As the man told me this story he was moved to tears - and who can blame him?
Q: Are you surprised that people still have treasures that they knew nothing about?
A: You’d think that after 40 years of Antiques Roadshow that somehow people would run out of things to show us, run out of things to tell us but I’m happy to report that is not the case! Thousands of people come along and we still find the most remarkable objects. We never know what is going to turn up and that is the great joy of the programme and we will see everybody who comes along.
Q: You’ve been known to help out on reception on the valuation days - what’s the oddest thing that you’ve seen brought along?
A: You never know what will turn up. One year a man brought an attaché case and plonked it down on our reception table. I thought it might contain some exciting documents or letters of historical importance - but no. Inside was his collection of loo chains. When I asked him why on earth he would want to collect them, he said he really enjoyed watching the programme, thought he should start a collection of his own, wanted it to be out of the ordinary - and loo chains were cheap!
Q: What’s been the highlight/s for you from the last decade of the programme?
A: Seeing a bible given to Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII, with his secret messages to her inside, and a Picasso sketch. The then-unrecognised Van Dyck portrait that I spotted (I happened to be making a programme about the artist at the time). Margot Fonteyn’s make-up case brought along to a Roadshow by Darcey Bussell. Gold coins sewn into coat buttons by a Jewish mother for her daughter to help her escape the Nazis in Austria. There are so many highlights, I could go on and on!