As the Antiques Roadshow is set to air tonight on BBC1 we take a trip down memory lane and remember the Day the Antiques Road Show Came to the Museum Gardens on Thursday 28 July 2011.
The Antiques Roadshow is a national institution. Musing on why this might be I have arrived at a threefold explanation. First, the British public are deeply nostalgic; “back in my day” and “when I was a lad” are for many something of a mantra. Tangible objects however are more powerfully evocative than mere wistful reminiscences. Second, the British are secretly more pecuniary than they let on. There’s something a bit seedy about talking cash, and this lends to valuation a fetishistic appeal. The third reason is the enchanting presenter. The twinkling eyes of Miss Bruce seem to suggest she is privy to some private joke at our expense, or perhaps the joke of life itself.
Whatever the reasons, the arrival of the Antiques Roadshow transformed the museum gardens on that sunny July afternoon. Immense queues writhed like vipers around the grounds, made up of the hot, stolid, antique-laden York citizenry. Three hour waits to see an expert were not uncommon. Several pensioners passed out. One of these was graciously met on the stretcher by an expert: alas, his object d’art was worthless.
As I ambled along, drinking in the scene, I found myself about to greet the familiar TV faces, before realising the recognition was not mutual. Hovering by the experts as they assessed the objects, I was struck by the poetry, passion and precision of their descriptions. One expert said off a battered 17th century clock: “I love its honesty. Don’t do a thing with it! Clean it if you must, but restore it and you’ll ruin its honesty”. I had not hitherto considered a clock capable of honesty, yet all the experts spoke of the antiques as having characters; demure, cheeky or sincere. This affectation is doubtless a product of the profound enthusiasm crucial for describing endless artefacts on a hot summer’s day.
As the long day of nostalgia and valuation wore on, I realised something was missing. What of our third factor? Alas, I was told Miss Bruce was not present and would be arriving on another date to be filmed separately. A rare cloud on an otherwise glorious day.
The Antiques Road Show in York is scheduled to be screened on the BBC tonight at 20.00 (here)