Being the neurotic collecting freak that I am, I was pretty excited when I found out that not only was popular BBC antiques series Flog It coming to Huddersfield, where I live, but also that my annual leave from work coincided with the date. Yay, I thought. I’m going.
Flog It first aired in May 2002, so it’s been going a long time. It is an antique programme hosted by Paul Martin and filmed at various locations around Britain. Members of the public turn up with stuff they want to know more about, and a team of antiques experts are on hand with their two-pennerth*.
If the item is exciting enough, and their owner wants to sell, the expert they see can slap down the pounds. If the owner doesn’t think the offer is enough for them, they can take their chance at an upcoming auction. If they go to auction, they may be quids in afterwards, or of course the item may either sell for a huge loss, or not at all, and don’t forget that deduction for commission!
Hey-ho, hey-ho, off to the town hall we go
I had no idea what to expect. I joined the queue outside Huddersfield Town Hall. It being Huddersfield, and February, it was freezing cold. Everyone was well wrapped up in case the wait outside was of some duration. Before we could go in, the experts with a film crew each came to have a look at us all and see who stood out. Two of them homed in to a lady two in front of me in the queue. She had a very vivid purple hat on, and carried something they were interested in – a silver-looking dressing table set in a case. They also spoke to two ladies behind me.
The deal at this point seems to have been if the experts were interested, and the owner of item was willing, they were siphoned off first into the relative warmth of the town hall.
The rest of us went in not long after, when all the outside filming was done. Now at this point it seems only fair to say as I was in a hurry to leave home, I had fled without breakfast or a drink. Also, I had wanted to bring some stuff for appraisal, but as I have nothing really I want to sell, I didn’t bring much of interest. Really I only wanted to see how Flog It was made, and watch the filming.
Huddersfield Town Hall
This is a beautiful and impressive building, and I haven’t been inside much. Built in two stages between 1875 and 1881 in the Classical style of the Corinthian order by John Abbey, the hall can seat up to 1,200 people in its main concert hall area. As well as concerts, the hall is a venue for functions, weddings and meetings, and also houses our registry offices. It is certainly a grand and fitting location to film a show about antiques.
Eventually everyone made it inside clutching prized items; pictures in binbags, gold watches or antique jewellery in handbags, pottery carefully wrapped up, all waiting to see if it would make anyone a fortune.
As I said before, I didn’t really want to take anything I wished to part with, so ended up with three small items I would have been prepared to sell if offered cash (a very little would have sufficed, said items are surely not worth anything). They all belonged to my uncle. Before he died he used to collect odd bits which took his fancy. The personal family items we all kept, of course, but these three bits ended up at my house.
There’s a souvenir lighter from Gibraltar. It’s probably 1950’s, mother-of-pearl (or cheap synthesised) and was either brought back as a gift for my uncle or picked up by him in a junk shop. The second item is a razor of similar age, without its blade, but has a rather snazzy handle. The third I found quite interesting. It’s a rather ornate lipstick holder with a mirror which springs out, probably another junk shop find which wasn’t intended to be used by my uncle (obviously) or my aunt.
And so we wait…
The format seems to be: the specially selected people wait at the front and are individually filmed discussing their items with the main experts. Everyone else is seated in order to see the other not-so-main experts, and move up accordingly. If any gems are uncovered at this stage, they could get chosen for filming, or at least further appraisal by main experts.
So I bought a much-needed coffee and sat down to watch all the filming. This included an interview with Paul Martin, the show’s host talking to a gigantic chap called Eorl Crabtree, who it turns out used to play prop forward for Huddersfield Giants. I’m more of a footie fan, so didn’t actually recognise him from Adam. But like I said, I’m not starstuck. Unless Ryan Giggs walks into the room, or Jimmy Page, or Sean Connery, or Lionel Messi…
It took some time of us gradually shuffling up, but it was interesting seeing the constant takes and retakes, the re-positioning of the cameras if something had too much shine on it, the researches on their computers, the production team.
My turn finally comes
After about two and a half hours of me initially turning up, I finally sit down at a table in front of a lady who looks particularly uninterested in seeing me and my small items. Maybe she’s seen too many people proudly parading tat this morning. We are joined by a lady who I have actually seen on the telly. She’s much more chatty. They both agree that Dunhill is THE name in collectible lighters (which mine certainly isn’t), the razor has a pretty handle, but is nothing special, and the lipstick holder, though interesting, is a slightly later copy of an earlier design. The lighter and razor would probably be worth about a fiver each, while the Lipstick holder could go for about fifteen.
‘Ooh,’ I say. ‘Well that’s more than I reckoned.’
If they would have offered £25 right there, I would have gladly accepted. But they didn’t. So I said thank you very much and went to join a relative in Merrie England for a coffee and a toasted currant teacake.
I think there may be a teddy bear and a painting making their way to the auction in Leeds later this month, but my humble items will probably stay with me now. Can’t wait to see the episodes aired. Think they may make four programmes out of today’s filming, which will be shown during the next 18 months.