Jeanne & Donna
BBC one’s ever popular Sunday evening programme Antiques Roadshow will be filming for its 33rd series at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, on Friday, 18th june, 2010. The doors open at 9.30 am and close at 4.30pm; entry is free.
This will be presenter Fiona Bruce’s third year with the Roadshow and she says, “Presenting the Antiques Roadshow is, for me, one of those rare and very lucky coincidences in television when you get to work on a show that you already love to watch. Exploring the human story behind every object is what makes Antiques Roadshow so fascinating. And everyone loves the agony and ecstasy of the ‘what’s it worth? moment. The Antiques Roadshow isn’t just about antiques - it’s history, beauty and drama all wrapped up in one.”
Some of Britain’s leading antiques and fine arts specialists will be on hand to offer free advice and valuations to visitors, who are invited to raid their attics and bring along their family heirlooms, household treasures and car boot bargains for inspection by the experts.
The last series, watched by an average of over six and half million viewers, included some intriguing objects such as a WW2 horse’s gas mask and a gallantry medal awarded to a pigeon. It also had some great Roadshow stories such as the bracelet found in the street which had belonged to Queen Victoria, a collection of 1930s posters bought for 50p in the 1970s and now worth over £30,000 and of course the first £100,000 plate seen on the Roadshow.
People with large pieces of furniture or other big items can send details and photographs of their objects to: ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, BBC, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2LR or e-mail them to: email@example.com. It may be possible to arrange to look at the item in advance and organise transportation to the venue.
Series Editor Simon Shaw says: “The team are all looking forward to visiting such a splendid venue as Britannia Royal Naval College. It’s always exciting to see what will come to light on the day. We regularly see between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors on the day. Despite the high turnout everyone will get to see an expert.”
Lady of the List
The Recording Manager of the Antiques Roadshow plays a vital role in the smooth running of the day. Jeanne Darrington describes the job that requires calm, diplomacy and ruthless organisation.
‘What’s next Jeanne?’ is a phrase constantly heard on the Antiques Roadshow. As the cameras roll and the crowds come and go, Jeanne Darrington runs the recording schedule, the lists of objects to be filmed. A straightforward enough job, surely? Think again!
Throughout the day, up to 60 nervous visitors tell their stories to specialists in front of the cameras. Of those, around 25 will face the more static main unit with another 15 recorded by each mobile camera unit (the PSC – or portable single camera) which roams the set and captures the information more informally. If there are two PSC units, Jeanne and her assistant find themselves juggling three lists.
Once Series Editor Simon Shaw and the specialist have agreed an object should be filmed, Jeanne not only slots it into the relevant list, but guides the visitor through the unique Roadshow process from ‘Find’ to ‘Reveal’.
‘I’m responsible for getting consent forms correctly filled in and signed and for making sure the piece is safely held in the security room, but it’s also up to me to make the experience as stress free and pleasant as possible,’ Jeanne explains. ‘Some people are confident and relaxed, others are mildly nervous and a few are plain terrified!’ she goes on.
‘I’ve been told it feels a bit like waiting to see the dentist, but everyone involved works very hard to dispel the fear. I take them to the waiting room where tea, coffee and sandwiches are laid on and, just before filming, the make-up lady waves her magic wand. A little cosseting before sitting down with the specialist to tell their story has a remarkably therapeutic effect.’
Jeanne stays in touch during the waiting period, dispensing calm reassurance. ‘I’ve had people chat away about their heirlooms to me and then completely clam up when the recording starts,’ she says. ‘I try to help them see it as a continuation of an informal conversation and I know the specialists try to get them to relax as well.’
An interesting waiting room provides a welcome distraction for nervous customers and helps the day go with a swing. ‘We’ve been treated to the luxury of a bishop’s private sitting room, the huge homely kitchens of National Trust properties and the private quarters of stately homes,’ says Jeanne. ‘On the other hand, we’ve also set up in windowless, shabby corridors. Wherever we are, we do our best to make it a friendly, welcoming space.’
As the day progresses, new things come to light and the recording lists change. ‘It never ceases to amaze all of us how many fantastic, undiscovered treasures are still being brought to the Roadshow after 30 years,’ says Jeanne. ‘I work on the schedule constantly, allowing half an hour for main camera slots, rather less for the PSC units, and building in time for any camera moves.’
She also keeps in constant touch with the people waiting for their slot to make sure that object, owner and specialist sit down together at exactly the moment the crew are ready. ‘When it’s all over, we want everyone to go home feeling they’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable day. I like to think that the lovely letters that arrive later prove that we get it right most of the time!’
One way of spotting Jeanne at a Roadshow is to look for the lady in bright orange clothes. You can’t miss her!
Man For All Seasons
As Engineering Manager of the Antiques Roadshow, John Neal is responsible for every technical aspect of the event, from access and scaffolding to sound, vision and all unforeseen obstacles
After 22 years of driving 30,000 miles a year on behalf of the Roadshow, John Neal could be forgiven for yearning to take life a little easier. Happily, nothing could be further from his mind.
‘It’s such a privilege to work on the programme because I love people and travelling,’ says John. ‘ I don’t find it a chore to sit on an aircraft for 18 hours or behind the wheel on a motorway. I do all the driving, despite travelling with the designer, Myra Lewis. I’m not a good passenger!’
No sooner has one series finished than John is back on the road, carrying out the recces for the next. ‘I spend the last months of the year inspecting possible venues, often while the current series is still on the road, then have a bit of a break before coming back in early January to finish the rounds,’ John explains.
‘Myra draws the plans of every venue. It’s up to me to work out access for the vehicles and the public, the lighting and scaffolding requirements, cable runs and a variety of other things.’
By early spring as a new series draws closer, John holds the detailed plans of 17 locations in his head. ‘It’s very important to carry a mental picture of every one, because as we’re in the middle of one Roadshow, I invariably get several calls about venues further down the line.
‘I have to be able to deal with queries on the spot, but the moment it’s over, I hit the delete button. I do remember, however, that at Hendon Air Museum, a huge place, we needed 15 miles of cable and it took a week to get the lights in. I think that was a record!’
If the early stages show off John’s planning skills, his talent for crisis management is tested on the day itself. John walking purposefully across the windswept lawn of a stately home or talking intently on his mobile whilst gazing into the vaulted ceiling of a cathedral is a reassuring sight at 8.30am as the queue begins to build.
‘Something always goes wrong. It goes with the territory. Usually, it’s a relatively minor problem such as arriving to find the estate gardener mowing the lawn exactly where our cables are laid because that’s what he always does on a Thursday morning.
‘Occasionally, however, we’ve had more heart stopping starts. At Bishop Auckland, the person on overnight security finished the shift and drove the 200 miles home, taking with them the keys to the scanner (the mobile recording unit). Luckily, someone was able to crawl through the inspection panel and open the door but it was a very close call!’
John and the team arrived in Hastings several years ago after heavy overnight rain to find the vehicles up to their wheel arches in water. ‘No-one told me I’d have to refine my paddling skills when I took the job!’ he laughs.
Nor, when the generator went up in flames in Nottingham several years ago, did they mention the occasional requirement to turn fire fighter. ‘I opened the scanner door at about 5pm to find the vision supervisor clutching a fire extinguisher and shouting “Don’t panic, don’t panic!”’ recalls John. We put out the flames and managed to rig up a local mains source of power so that we could finish the programme.’
All this and adept diplomacy too. ‘I supervise the de-rig after the event and work closely with whoever runs or owns the venue. From the start, it’s important that we all work as a team, so that we’re not seen as a film crew invading and disrupting their lives. I always head for home looking forward to the next one!’
BRNC Treasure Trove of Antiques
Britannia Royal Naval College will be a wonderful setting for the BBC Antiques Roadshow on Friday 18th June and the experts are hoping to find some gems in such a historic port. Of course the Naval College itself holds a priceless collection of fine art, sculpture, models, ship’s paraphernalia, medals, china and glass, letters and records….and the list goes on.
Over the coming issues of By the Dart, Dr Richard Porter and Dr Jane Harrold, BRNC’s Museum Curator and Archivist respectively, will be giving us an insight to the College’s collection and how it came about.
Quite often on the Antiques Roadshow they will be presented with a letter written by someone ‘famous’. How much more famous can two princes be who both went on to become King? During 1911-12 Prince Albert , later King George VI and Prince Edward who became King Edward VIII were studying at the College and both, in turn, wrote hand-written letters of thanks to the Captain’s wife, Mrs Evan-Thomas. Edward’s was written on Buckingham Palace letterhead and edged in black and thanked her for her kindness after the death of his grandfather Edward VII. Dr Harrold’s favourite is the letter written by Albert because it is still such a schoolboy’s note saying, ‘Thank you for sending me that book of yours The Smugglers of Avon Quay which I am returning to you. I think it is very good. I enjoyed reading it very much.’
Before the College was built and opened in 1905, the cadets were on the timber built Britannia moored on the Dart and when she was taken away to breakers in Blythe, Northumberland, they were very entrepreneurial. They ‘recycled’ her timbers producing items of furniture and knick-knacks and the College museum actively collects these artefacts. The most recent acquisition is a chair as shown in the photograph and also shown is a letter writing box with inkwells.
The College was also the fortunate recipient of a pen which signed the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II. This was given to BRNC by Lord Louis Mountbatten together with a Japanese sword that is thought to be possibly 17th century and which was handed over as a sign of their final humiliation. The sword is one of only four recorded although six are known of, the others being at Broadlands, RM Whale Island, Sandhurst and Windsor Castle – don’t tell anybody but BRNC has two!
The one item Dr Porter will be asking the experts’ advice on is the Lord High Admiral’s Verge which was made in 1660 for the Duke of York who became King James II. It goes back to the beginnings of the Royal Navy. The Verge is the staff of office of the Lord High Admiral and as such is carried ahead of the LHA whenever she (HM The Queen is the present LHA) or her representative is present at a ceremonial occasion, at BRNC it is always carried by a young officer under training. Richard needs a value – the Palace wants to know!
First Published June 2010 By The Dart