NANA AKUA: The virtue-signalling BBC couldn’t resist wagging its finger at Antique Roadshow viewers after black expert refused to value slave trade bangle and humiliate its owner

Fans of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow know that the highlight of any episode is watching someone discover that Great Aunt Mildred’s china vase, hauled from the loft where it had been carelessly abandoned for years, is actually a priceless Ming Dynasty heirloom.

Of course, learning about the history of each item is fascinating, but the nation’s guilty secret is that all we really want to know is the answer to that million-dollar question: how much is it worth?

It’s usually not quite £1million – but either way, the moment of valuation is so vital to the show that the popular BBC sitcom The Royle Family featured a joke about the characters placing bets on the price before each item was assessed by an expert.

No doubt the lady who brought in her unusual antique to Cardiff’s Alexandra Gardens for an episode screened on Sunday was eager to know, too. On this occasion though, the pleasure was denied to both her and to the show’s millions of viewers.

Antiques Roadshow expert Ronnie Archer-Morgan refused to value the item because of its horrifying past

Antiques Roadshow expert Ronnie Archer-Morgan refused to value the item because of its horrifying past

The woman said she had bought the ivory bangle for just £3 around 36 years ago at a house sale

The woman said she had bought the ivory bangle for just £3 around 36 years ago at a house sale 

Why? Because this particular guest had bought to the Roadshow a curious ivory disc that she purchased for £3 from a house sale 36 years ago. The guest admitted she had no idea what the item was but bought it because it ‘looked interesting’.

Expert Ronnie Archer-Morgan wasted no time in informing us that this was in fact a bangle, inscribed with the name of a man, a ship and the date ‘1782’ – and an artefact of the slave trade.

‘This is an amazing object and a testament to the callous trade that went on in the 17th, 18th and into the 19th century’, he intoned. He believed that the inscribed name – Prince Jemmy of Grandy – was an African slave trader, and therefore a ‘despicable human being’.

As such, he refused to assign it a monetary value.

In Archer-Morgan’s exact words: ‘I do not want to put a price on something that signifies such an awful business.’

You could almost hear the sigh of disappointment among the onlooking crowd, although the object’s owner looked less disappointed than mortified.

No wonder. She had bought this fascinating curio along to share with the Roadshow, and the nation, and now her possession was being associated with the worst evil in human history.

It’s one reason that I’m afraid the whole episode left a truly nasty taste in my mouth. The BBC cannot resist an opportunity to wag its fingers at us, the philistine viewers.

Why make a point of screening this otherwise?

I’ve worked in broadcast television for years and I know all too well that choosing who features on programmes like the Roadshow is a painstaking affair: researchers would have been scouting the crowds, sourcing the mixture of funny and touching backstories that normally make the series so enjoyable.

Ronnie, certainly, would have been fully aware of what he was about to examine. The bangle is a fascinating slice of history which, presenter Fiona Bruce explained in a voiceover, ‘acted as an endorsement of the professional reputation of an African slave trader in the West African port of Bonny [modern day Nigeria] in the 18th century’.

The inscription on the disc describes the original owner as a 'good trader' and a 'honest fellow'

The inscription on the disc describes the original owner as a ‘good trader’ and a ‘honest fellow’

I personally, was interested to hear more about this period, not least because it’s rare that we hear about the role of black slave traders in this monstrous business.

Instead we got little more than a sermon, as Ronnie emphasised that he and the Antiques Roadshow team disapproved ‘wholly and unequivocally’ of both the trade in ivory and the trade in human life that this piece signified.

To which I can only say: doesn’t this go without saying? Slavery is an indelible historic stain on humanity – and in our present too – whether it be in trafficked people in foreign sweat shops or via the illegal sex trade.

But if you take a stance against items derived from the transatlantic slave trade, then where do you stop? Will Ronnie refrain from valuing Roman coins or Ottoman treasures, both from empires which also had a lucrative trade in human misery?

The fact is that if you are an antiques dealer, history is your trade – no matter what horrors it contains. If you can’t accept that, I would respectfully suggest that you are in the wrong business.

Ronnie is, of course, entitled to express his personal feelings, but he could surely have deployed a defter hand. Why not give a valuation while explaining why it pained him to do so?

Instead, he closed his lecture by telling his guest: ‘I just love you for bringing [this] to the Roadshow’, before the final, excruciating twist of the knife: ‘Thank you so much for making me so sad.’

I’m sure the poor woman left utterly humiliated after her very public dressing down. She certainly looked it.

I just hope she took the bangle straight to a proper antiques dealer – and sold the damn thing for a small fortune.

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