Ahead of appearing in the new series of Downton Abbey, actor Richard E. Grant will appear in a new Channel 4 show, where he will join antique dealers as they search for treasures in France.
Grant will rummage around flea markets and antique shops hoping to find items of intrigue including absinthe glasses, vintage traffic lights and horse linen, but will they actually make the dealers any money? Grant reveals more…
How did your interest in antiques develop? When I emigrated to England from Swaziland in 1982 I lived in a bed sit off Portobello Road for two years and got addicted to rummaging around the Goldhawk Road end of the market. And once you start collecting things, it becomes an obsession. Especially coming from a country where there was very little choice.
Where in France did you visit during filming Dirty Weekenders? The programme was filmed in the town of Uzès in south west France and L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue which is nicknamed the Venice of France as it is cross crossed by canals and has the biggest concentration of antique and junk shops in the country to suit every pocket. In all the years I’ve been visiting, I’ve never left empty handed.
Is antique hunting a risky but potential way to travel for free (i.e picking up something that covers your travel costs while abroad)? Depends on what you’re looking for. I have no interest in antique silver, which is guided by markings, and am always in search of something unusual and interesting rather than ‘valuable’. The internet is useful as a back up when bargaining, as it gives you an idea of what an object usually sells for.
If you weren’t an actor, would you be an antique dealer? Tempting, but as I am a lifelong hoarder and collector, I would find it very difficult to sell things that I love.
What do you collect? I have an enormous collection of puppets and papier-mâché carnival heads, including a giant clown mask from the turn of the last century. Some people’s idea of junk, but valuable to me.
Did you find anything in France on your recent trip? Two giant metal lanterns salvaged from a chateau that I coveted but were too large and costly to fit into my hand luggage! Haha.
It’s a national pastime in France and judging by the numbers of people attending markets across Britain, the appetite for antiques seems undiminished. Always something to discover that’s no longer available in our homogenised high streets where almost every town and city has the same stores.
Which fellow celebs have impressed you in terms of their antique collection? Writer and director Bruce Robinson [The Rum Diary, The Killing Fields] and his wife Sophie Wyndham who illustrates children’s books, have great and unusual taste and live in a house full of wonderful objects in Herefordshire.
If you could get your hands on any collector’s item, what would it be? Send a self addressed envelope for my very long list!
What are you working on next? I am currently filming four episodes of Downton Abbey and Queen and Country, the sequel to Hope and Glory, directed by John Boorman, which will be screened at the Cannes film festival in May.
Are you doing another series of Hotel Secrets? The second series of Hotel Secrets will air this summer. Cities include Hong Kong, Tokyo, Miami, New Orleans, Venice and Berlin.
What’s your best piece of travel advice? Only ever travel with hand luggage. It means no delays at luggage carousels or risk of lost luggage. It’s also a good excuse to go shopping if you’re caught short too.
What do you never leave home without when travelling? All things Apple. iPhone and iPad.
Where are you going next? Toronto, to visit my wife who is coaching on a film over there.
Dirty Weekenders in France airs Sunday at 8pm on Channel 4
Visit France with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details