FIONA AT CAS­TLE HOWARD

I’ve been so lucky to go to some of the most won­der­ful places in the UK as part of the team.

The Scarborough Evening News - - FRONT PAGE -

This year sees two big an­niver­saries for BBC One’s An­tiques Road­show – it’s 40 years since the pro­gramme first hit the road and 10 years since its pre­sen­ter, Fiona Bruce took the reigns.

This is your tenth year on an­tiques road­show – how did it start and were you a fan be­fore­hand?

I used to watch the Road­show as a child when I lived at home. I would sit with my par­ents on Sun­day nights and we would watch it to­gether. We en­joyed it very much.

I came back to it when I had my own home and was a reg­u­lar viewer be­fore I got the dream job of pre­sent­ing it.

As a jour­nal­ist, what sto­ries ex­cite you most on the pro­gramme?

I love a good tale and our vis­i­tors pro­vide plenty of them.

I en­joy work­ing out what the story is, what the best way is to tell it and how to use the ob­ject to il­lus­trate it.

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 an af­fair with her while his fa­ther was away serv­ing in the Sec­ond World War.

The let­ters re­vealed that his mother 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 on the Road­show he was moved to tears - and who can blame him?

The pro­gramme’s changed a lot over the years, most of the film­ing takes place out­doors.

What venues have stood out for you?

I’ve been so lucky to go to some of the most won­der­ful places in the UK. In my first year we did a show at Leeds Cas­tle in Kent. Some of us stayed in the cas­tle overnight and we had the whole cas­tle all to our­selves, it was mag­i­cal.

I loved go­ing to Bletch­ley Park where se­cret code break­ing took place dur­ing the Sec­ond World War us­ing, amongst other things, the Ger­man enigma ma­chine. At the time, the build­ings were pretty run down, rather unloved and lit­tle changed since the war – but it was hugely at­mo­spheric. Since then, it’s been given fund­ing and is now open to the public.

An­other favourite was Hopetoun House just out­side Ed­in­burgh. Part of the film­ing in­volved go­ing to the top of the nearby Forth Bridge in a high wind. I’m not sure all the crew en­joyed it, but I cer­tainly did!

You’ve been known to help out on re­cep­tion on the val­u­a­tion days – what’s the odd­est thing that you’ve seen brought along?

I al­ways help out on re­cep­tion as it’s great fun. It’s the first chance I get to see what our vis­i­tors have brought along and to hear their sto­ries. You never know what will turn up. Last 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 to it to be out of the or­di­nary – and loo chains were cheap!

What’s been the high­light/s for you, from the last decade on the pro­gramme?

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 makeup 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!

Sum up the pro­gramme in three words… Friendly, in­for­ma­tive, un­ex­pected.

BBC One’s ever-pop­u­lar Sun­day evening pro­gramme An­tiques Road­show comes to Cas­tle Howard on Thurs­day 13 July.

The doors open at 9.30am and close at 4.30pm. En­try to the show is free, ev­ery­one is wel­come, and no tick­ets or pre-regis­tra­tion is re­quired.

Many 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 car­boot sale bar­gains for in­spec­tion by the ex­perts.

Please note this is an ex­te­rior event. Or­gan­is­ers are ad­vis­ing all vis­i­tors to dress ac­cord­ingly. More in­for­ma­tion on plan­ning your visit can be found at www.bbc. co.uk/an­tiques­road­show.

As the man told me this story on the Road­show he was moved to tears – and who can blame him?

An­tiques Road­show fans en­joy great day out. The show comes to Cas­tle Howard on Thurs­day 13 July be­tween 9.30am and 4.30pm.

FIONA BRUCE

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