The Bidding Room in Yorkshire: Behind the scenes
- Credit: Ian Humphries
The Bidding Room on BBC 1has built up a cult following. It’s a show shining a light on Calderdale with filming taking place at Andy Thornton Mill in West Vale, Halifax and offering up fabulous aerial shots of Sowerby Bridge and the Calder Valley.
Presented by everybody’s favourite English gent, renowned actor Nigel Havers, the series pits sellers face to face with five antiques dealers who battle it out to make the highest bid.
Apart from the location, there is another Yorkshire link to the show in the form of antiques expert, Ian Humphries who talks to John Foster.
Tell us about your Yorkshire background
my parents are from the West Midlands and the day they got married they moved lock, stock and barrel to North Yorkshire. I was ‘popped out’ in Harrogate General and lived in Scotten Drive in Knaresborough and then Huddersfield.
Where did the love of antiques come from?
I started in the motor trade but I’d also become interested in antique furniture and used to sell furniture between the sales people so I guess it started there. I went completely self-employed as an antique dealer. I used to say to my dad that there is no security in any job so I may as well be in charge and not let anyone sack me.
How did The Bidding Room come about?
Many years ago I got a call from someone at a production company asking me to do a video on my phone trying to sell her something for a new TV show they were thinking of doing. I’d completely forgotten about it and about three years later they rang up again asking me to go for an audition. So, yeah, it was a bit out of the blue.
I was then sent to London for what they call, ‘chemistry days’ with about thirty other people where the production company watch you to see how you interact with other people and what sort of dynamic you have. I was picked to progress to the next step, a pilot was made and the rest is history as they say.
Did you know it was going to be a success?
I think so, because I don’t think the BBC would’ve committed to it without giving it a chance. We were put in the 4:30pm slot which is where the new shows go. It’s not an Antiques Roadshow type of thing, it’s got a different spin on it with an entertainment and factual element to it. Let’s face it, we all have something in the house that we wonder how much it would be worth and people watching can get more excited over something that could be worth £20 than £100. So the show really covers a lot of bases. All of us dealers do get on although there is an element of competitiveness between us but we are all out to make money... It’s got to be done. I don’t think it comes down to how much money we can get from the items, I think it’s because we want to own it, hold it and then pass it on to the next owner. It’s a bit of an obsession.
It’s great that the programme has had a run out in the evening schedule alongside ‘The Repair Shop’ and the recognition in the street has been surprising. Even with my mask on I get recognised and always asked ‘how much is this worth?’ If I had a pound for every time that had been asked, I’d be a millionaire. I was even spotted when I had my back to someone!
Memorable moments on the show?
I have a giveaway sign apparently which is when an item comes into the room, I can’t take my eyes off it. I don’t really make eye contact with anyone else; I’m just staring at the piece. The bed of nails is something which people still ask me about and how could I forget about it when I still bloody own it!
When you first saw the location at Andy Thornton Mill in West Vale, Halifax and re-connecting with Yorkshire that must’ve been great?
For years I used to see Andy Thornton’s trucks thundering around the country and to be in the place where they come from is quite surreal but the venue is fabulous as is the whole area too. When we record the show there is a little downtime so it’s great to get out and explore the local antiques shops and go to places like The Piece Hall which is quite incredible. A lot of the other dealers look for spas but me? I’m off to the local antiques shop. One of my last days out I ended up buying a standard lamp with big animal type feet and here I am walking back towards the hotel, in the middle of Halifax, with this in tow. I was recognised.
Working with the legendary Nigel Havers?
He is exactly how you would expect him to be. His stories are just brilliant and the people who he’s worked with are just as legendary. Quite a bit of name dropping, ‘oh I worked with him and acted with her....’ and so on which is amazing and what a career he has had so far. He did an antiques show a few years and he really knows and loves the industry. He’s great with the people who come on the show and takes time to chat to them and is genuinely interested in it all.
What tips would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Keep your eye on the market and if you like something, buy it. I wouldn’t suggest you buy anything to solely make money. It’s more about the pleasure it will give you and if it becomes something of notable value, that’s an added bonus. I always remember that I’m the current custodian of the item and one day I’ll pass it on to someone to look after and cherish it. If you’re drawn to something, even if it’s not very expensive, it’s for you. Buy it if you love it.
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In a word, what does Yorkshire mean to you?
Familiarity. The friendliness of the people, the countryside and the accent actually melts me