Fiona Bruce on the Antiques Roadshow: “There’s a real schadenfreude in the audience”
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
As a child, Fiona Bruce watched the Antiques Roadshow from her parent's sitting room. As an adult, she did not hesitate when offered the chance to present it.
She described the role as great for someone who combines a pleasure in meeting people with being professionally nosey.
Speaking as filming got underway for the 36th series at the University of East Anglia yesterday, she said: 'To make a really good Roadshow you want some interviewees that have extraordinary stories. You want some great owners who are characters, ideally one or two items with significant value, and that's what makes a great show.
'The demographic of BBC1 generally is skewed to an older and slightly more affluent audience but I never fail to be surprised by the type of people who come along and who enjoy the programme', she said. 'We do get our share of young viewers and young people who come along.'
The programme makers always hope that some items connected to local traditions will emerge during filming, but she described the process as 'absolutely pot luck – that's the fun of it.'
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But despite the gems the experts often unearth, it is not always plain sailing.
She said that at one filming, which has not been broadcast yet, a historically-valuable document bearing a politician's signature blew away in the wind while she was holding it.
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Luckily, a member of the public managed to snatch it, but it was a 'heartstopping moment'.
And last week, a viewer unscrolled what he said was the American Declaration of Independence for her at the reception desk, only to be 'completely crestfallen' when she had to tell him it was a copy.
Although not an antiques collector herself, she said six years working on the show had affected her life.
'My buying habits have changed completely. Since I started on the Roadshow I will always, bar kitchens, bathrooms and sofas, try to buy whatever I need from auction rooms and junk shops', she said. 'I bought a new house three years ago and I furnished it, bar those three exceptions, that way.'
She added that she was lucky to have a team of experts as friends who could tip her off when an item she might be interested in was coming up at auction.
Her last visit to Norfolk for the show was at RAF Marham last year, which she described as a 'great privilege'.
And although the show might seem to be the archetype of genteel weekend television, she was surprised by what viewers said they most enjoyed about it.
'When I started on the Roadshow it astonished me the comments about when people turn up and they think their item has tremendous value, and it's not. There's a real schadenfreude in the audience, and we get a bit of that.'