Thursday, March 08, 2007

Realising my antique value

In her comment on my previous post, Stitchwort remarked that "age in furniture, china, or cars, merits the tags *antique*, *vintage*, or *classic*, which are all more complimentary than *old*, and describe desirable qualities." This reminded me of an experience I wrote about a couple of years ago for the Growing Old Disgracefully Newsletter.

Out of the blue, I received an email from a film company engaged in making an antiques auction programme for Channel 4 TV. They were trying to add interest to it by giving a sense of place and history to each auction house that they visited. The first of these was to be Wandsworth, not far from Battersea Park, where the Festival Pleasure Gardens were situated during the Festival of Britain in 1951. I had worked there during the Festival, and they wanted to record my recollections of that time.

There are few things more seductive than being asked to recall one of the most colourful and exciting times of one’s life, and after making sure that my expenses would be paid, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation, although I have never particularly yearned to be on television. I agreed to go up to London two days later - so soon that I hardly had time to get nervous about it, much less to buy a new outfit or have my hair done!

So I set off with sandwiches in my bag, in case the filming schedule should not include lunch - (it did, but not until very late!) I also took with me my few treasured souvenirs, which I thought could probably be shown on camera. I was met at St Pancras by a young woman ‘runner’ for the film crew, (but no limo), and we set off across London in a taxi. In the lunch-hour traffic it took an hour to get to the auction house, and I was thankful not to be paying!

On arrival at the auction house, which from the outside looked more like a warehouse on an industrial estate, I was greeted by the film crew: a director-producer, an assistant producer, a researcher, a camera man, a sound man, and of course the runner. Then there was the front man who would actually interview me, Michael Hogben, who is now seen a good deal on TV in antiques programmes.

I had to hang about for 2½ hours before getting ready for my interview, which itself took not much more than half an hour. The sound man, incredibly young but quite unabashed, dropped a microphone wire down inside my T-shirt. He had to enlist my help, however, when it failed to reappear at the bottom, having lodged itself firmly in my well-braced cleavage!

I had used the waiting time to rehearse my answers to the questions prepared by the director, but in the event the presenter forgot half of them and he and I both ad-libbed. Sadly, he didn’t ask about the things I really wanted to talk about, but I hoped I had at least acquitted myself without looking an idiot.

We did the interview once, while the director took notes, then we ran through it again, section by section, to make sure they had two shots of everything for editing purposes. My souvenir programme was shown to the camera, as well as an old press photo of myself aged 22, standing beside the architect’s original model of the Festival Gardens.

They seemed delighted with the way I had conducted myself, and they all signed a book of local photographs for me to bring away as a souvenir. Then they sent me off again in a taxi, with some notes to pay for it. The experience had been interesting and enjoyable, despite the tediums of waiting, and the resulting 2½ minute interview did not cause me any embarrassment. (Pity it turned out to be a lousy programme!)


Avus said...

God! That Festival logo took me back. I was once the proud owner of an Ingersoll pocket watch (teenagers had them in those days) with that logo engraved on the back. Where do these things disappear off to? It would have some value these days.
Sounds like you had a great time - but filming can be boring can't it. All that waiting and reshooting.

Judith said...

There is still a thriving collectors' market for such items, Avus. A few years ago I discovered there is a Festival of Britain Society, many of whose members are not ancient relics of the time like me, but younger people who just find it fascinating as an event. I was invited to one of their conventions in London to talk about my experience, and found that some of them knew a great deal more about it than I could remember!

Avus said...

Why could we make such a success of it then and make such a fiasco of "The Dome" recently, I wonder?

Judith said...

Possibly because the public's imagination was not engaged in the same way. In 1951 we still had rationing, and were, I suppose, desperate to emerge from wartime austerity and celebrate a new world. And it was under the guise of selling ourselves to that world, too, and the challenge produced so much creativity.

For the Milennium, we were just celebrating for no very good reason, since the only thing at all special about the year was the double 00 on the end - no intrinsic value in it at all, that I can see. Some serious tree planting around the country would have been a better use for the money in my view. No, I didn't go !!!

Lillie said...

Our Judith a television star! Wish I could have seen it!