Robert Arley who for a long time was the producer and director of the BBC’s Antique Roadshow gave the monthly U3A talk held in the Larruperz Centre on Monday, the 19th of February. 

It was a very well attended meeting (at least 150 people) in front of an appreciative audience. Speaking without any audio visual aids and actively involving the audience he fluently explained the effort and organisation that goes into producing the program. 

This starts with how to make a short film introduction about the venue and surrounding area that makes it interesting and attractive to people who know nothing about the area while at the same time being sensitive to local sensibilities. 

He explained the process whereby out of the 2000 objects brought by members of the public on the day, 20 objects are selected for possible inclusion in the program. One of the most important and to me surprising factors was whether the panel of experts knew what the object was and could talk about it. The experts don’t know everything which is not necessarily how it appears on the television. 

Robert emphasised the organic nature of the show and how members of the public used and did not abuse their three minutes with the expert. Everyone is seen and most feel the queuing was worth it to be able to go home with new knowledge about their antique. 

The owners of the objects selected are then asked if they want to be on TV. If they agree, a few hours pass by when they can think about where, when and how they got the object before they face the camera. 

Meanwhile the experts have some time to check up on their knowledge of the object so they can check details and talk more fluently about it. These days an e-photo sent to back room staff or colleagues at Sotheby’s can do the trick. Then the cameras roll, capturing the conversation from different angles. 

Then comes the time spent in the editing suite. A lot of time, usually many weeks. Many many decisions are made. What is the best order to feature the antique pieces? How much explanation from the expert is sufficient? 

How best to show the owner’s reactions, remembering that a lot of the surprise at the valuations is overblown since the more valuable objects will have had a rough valuation for insurance? The objective is to produce 57 minutes and 30 seconds of high class television. Robert explained that at least 100 people are involved but of course the prime responsibility for the look of the finished product was his. In some ways like his talk. It looked effortless but must have been underpinned by a lot of hard work. 

The next meeting is on March 18 at  2.30pm @The Larruperz Centre when Nigel Metcalfe will be talking about “The Piers of the Realm”.