Antiques expert and professional artist David Harper is touring the UK with his new one man show ‘Unexpected Tales’.
Centre: Me (Fiona), with David Harper (left) and other antique experts James Lewis and Caroline Hawley.
I joined the audience at the Assembly Rooms in Frome in November and he will be heading to Swindon in 2020 to share his stories.
I have to admit I’m extremely biased as David is one of my antiques buddies and we worked together on multiple episodes of the popular day-time series Flog It! for six years. So I know him well. What you see on screen is what you get in real life. It’s been such a privilege that during my career I’ve got to know so many amazing antique dealers and auctioneers who all know about business.
David is no exception. He understands that when your business is your expertise – you are the asset – and you have to work hard to make a living.
This show speaks to an audience of those who love the world of history, heritage, antiques, collectibles and all of the programmes on tv which speak to those interests.
Getting into tv took a long time for David though. He explained that he got his first break by being asked to speak about antiques for a live local BBC radio broadcast. He was so nervous he couldn’t sleep and when he went on he felt he’d done two minutes which had gone quickly yet not so great. However he’d actually been on air for 20 minutes and he became a regular contributor for four years.
Dressed in his distinctive colourful trousers – and often shirts and jackets too – he finally got a tv break when he was asked to be a regular on Cash In The Attic and another series for Channel 5. Over the years this has led to him being a familiar face on Flog It!, Bargain Hunt and the versions of the Antiques Road Trip.
Much of this show is based around story-telling which comes from audience questions which means every show is unpredictable. Much like the antiques trade – or any business frankly. One minute something can be very valuable, a year later it’s not so much. You can see an old object and think it’s tacky, then you hear the story behind it and the object takes on a totally different hue.
One question David was asked was about his colourful clothes. He told his audience he’d always dressed this way and it was fantastic because colourful trousers are always the cheapest – no one else wants to buy them!
David told the John Barrowman Rear of the Year story – you have to see the show to hear that tale and he also talked about how John taught him the secret of having a Hollywood Smile. He taught us all an exercise to find our own Hollywood smile and said we’d all try it at home (he was right).
When David was asked about how he got into antiques he explained it started when he was about 15, living overseas, when his mum bought a chaise longue and said it had come from Lord Nelson.
Fascinated, David began to research it and borrowed books from the library to read up on this particular item of furniture. Of course, his research then revealed it had been made about 30 years after Lord Nelson’s death. It showed him the power of the story behind objects and started a lifelong fascination with ‘old things’.
He was also asked about his disastrous appearance on Celebrity Masterchef where he was the first off the series – and apparently privately awarded the honour of being the ‘worst contestant’ ever on the show. However, in true David style, winning that accolade was enough for him. He simply can’t cook.
Putting aside my personal bias, if you love antiques, if you want to hear behind-the-scenes stories, if you want to know how shows like this are made, the highs and the lows – then this is an evening you will never regret.
On walking out a lady from Chippenham stopped me (having seen me talking to David and it being clear he’s a friend) said to me it was worth the journey in the pouring rain. She said the shows utterly delight her and she was thrilled to see that David Harper in real life reflects the David Harper she sees onscreen.
To see David’s other tour dates visit www.david-harper.co.uk/bookings/appearances/