Wiltshire TV presenter Paul Martin talks about his career journey so far and business plans for 2019.
Antiques dealer Paul Martin has been a familiar face on our tv screens for 18 years as the main presenter on the popular BBC day-time series Flog It! and in Countryfile Diaries.
It can be easy to forget he was actually discovered as a tv talent almost 20 years ago while running The Table Gallery in Marlborough. A shy artist and antiques dealer, Paul did not harbour dreams of fame.
As comfortable playing snooker, darts, messing about on drums or guitar, this talented artist wanted to run his shop and enjoy working with beautiful objects – until something unexpected happened. A BBC researcher walked in.
“We chatted, got on so well and when she asked me later to do a screen test for a new tv show around antiques I was so surprised. Then it went quiet for a time then suddenly it all happened and I was travelling up and down the country, I was meeting tv people, ordinary people with extraordinary stories and learning a whole new skill set and people started to know who Paul Martin was – and I’d never met them.
“The lady who ‘discovered me’ has since, sadly passed away, yet I have such a lot to thank her for and I’ll never forget what she did for me.
“As the tv commitment grew it became evident I couldn’t carry on with my gallery anymore and with deep sadness I closed it down. Yet I’ve always collected and bought objects I love and surrounded myself with items which have history and a story.”
It was only recently announced the BBC’s day-time show Flog It! is coming to an end. Filming has already taken place though the show will be on our screens for one more series in 2019.
However, Paul’s show business career will continue. The end of 2018 sees the publication of his new book Paul Martin’s World of Antiques and the screening of a first series of his new show Make Me A Dealer.
Paul Martin’s World of Antiques
“I love this book,” Paul said. “I think it’s the best book I’ve written. It was a way to remember the exciting things I’ve done and seen while working all over the UK on Flog It! which is a very special programme. I’ve been involved in writing it for some time.
“It’s special because ordinary people are central to it. I talk about the gems we’ve spotted over the years and some of my fellow experts are also in the book sharing their stories – Adam Partridge, James Lewis, Phillip Serrell.
“The best thing about Flog It! has always been the people. From the labourers to the craftspeople, their objects and their stories. Even if the object itself is not valuable, the story can be priceless and fascinating.
“You can learn so much about a place – a town or a city – from its objects, its buildings and its architecture and of course its people.
“I’ve found people do have pride in our country and civic pride in their own area, they are proud of their history and their local history and that has become evident over and over again up and down the country.”
“I’ve had 18 incredible years on Flog It! for which I’m so grateful.”
Make Me A Dealer
Last month (November) the BBC screened the first series of Paul’s latest day-time show Make Me A Dealer.
This new format sees ordinary people, with Paul’s support and advice, try to be a dealer using their own money.
Paul said: “This show is truly about the real business of trading in antiques and collectibles. It’s the business end. Over the years, people have often said to me that many antiques programmes do ‘business” the wrong way around – by buying an item at a retail price from a shop or antiques show or centre and then selling it wholesale at an auction. This new show isn’t like that. Here the contributors use their own money and they have to assess what to buy and what not to buy, bidding for the items they want at the right price, setting themselves some goals, and then selling those items for a profit.
“It’s been utterly fascinating for these first 20 programmes to see what some people have – and haven’t done – we’ve met some real characters and two have even gone on to work as fledgling dealers as a result.”
Time will tell if the new series is a success and whether another group of armchair dealers get an opportunity to ‘step up’.
And in 2019?
Paul, who lives near Devizes, with his wife Charlotte and their two children is still as passionate about antiques as ever – with a particular love of furniture and natural history. His home even sports several skeletons all of which have a story to tell.
This has led him to make a huge decision – to open up a gallery again, this time in Corsham’s High Street. It’s currently under refurbishment however there’s likely to be a gala opening early in the new year.
“We are so lucky to live in Wiltshire. It’s a beautiful county and we’re surrounded by heritage and history and only an hour from our Capital. Corsham is a wonderful little town and now I’ve had time to explore it, I’m very excited to become part of this business community.
“I’ve never stopped loving antiques and for some time have wanted to get back to the business of dealing again. I’m a person who buys and sells from the heart and I already have some wonderful objects. When this opportunity arose, I decided the time had come to take the plunge.”
The new shop is currently being refurbished. It will be named Paul Martin’s Table Gallery and will be a place where anyone can come in and browse, chat and talk antiques and collectibles with Paul or a member of his team.
“I want people to come in and say hello and have a coffee with me and one of my team – without feeling any pressure to buy. I always did that in Marlborough and look what happened then? Who knows where those conversations can lead?…”
TV will still be a big part of Paul’s life, though he will be in the shop as much as his filming schedule allows.
“With Make Me A Dealer, Countryfile Diaries and other projects on the pipeline, there’s still a lot of tv going on. For me though it was also time to get back to enjoying passing on antiques, objects which have a story and show real craftsmanship – both those with history and the contemporary objects which will have a history.
“It’s time for me to be a dealer once again alongside being a tv presenter. To be able to work with and handle beautiful objects in both of those roles is my idea of a dream career move.”