Though I may gently poke fun at today’s Roadshow, as a schoolboy 30 years ago growing up on a Birmingham council estate I had no access to or knowledge of the historic treasures this country so proudly holds.
Nothing was taught in schools and my family’s oldest possessions were a 1970s lamp shade and a well-worn silver pocket watch. Antiques were a separate and unknown world to me and it may have remained so except for a Sunday tradition of watching the Antiques Roadshow.
It was, and I suspect it still is today, the very first and sometimes only encounter millions of people will have with the decorative and fine arts.
Vividly I still remember David Battie talking to the owner of a Japanese lacquer inro with a gold inlaid ivory ojime and an ivory kagamibuta netsuke with a shakudo cover. The compelling description of all the component parts, their uses, age and social history has stayed with me, decades later.
The tragedy that now someone would say that these objects should not be shown, because two of those pieces were made in part of ivory, fills me with a genuine despair.
The first proposal is that antique ivory is not to be sold, and now the suggestion is that it is not to be seen. We must draw a line, we must say ‘this far and no further’ and to be heard we must all say it.