While teaming up with Action for Children, Ronnie Archer-Morgan tells Abi Jackson how his love for art and antiques dates back to his childhood.
Antiques Roadshow fans will already know Ronnie Archer-Morgan’s fascination with works of art and treasures from the past, unveiling their stories and what they represent.
“The world is such a funny place, we cycle through a lot of negativity in so many ways. And I think through art I see the excellence of humanity,” Archer-Morgan observes.
“It’s a document that shows how well people can do things, and they leave us forever proof of their craftsmanship, their craftsmanship, their artistry – long after people have gone, their excellence is represented in the very beautiful things that they have made.”
Recently, he revisited his own story by partnering with Action for Children for their ‘Star in Every Child’ campaign. The charity, which supports and protects children, young people and their families and runs children’s homes across the UK, is on a mission to highlight the difference it can make when vulnerable children are given the right support and opportunities to shine.
It’s something Archer-Morgan can deeply identify with, having grown up in care himself in the 1950s and early 1960s (including a home run by Action for Children, then called National Children’s Home).
“I was honored to have been asked and I am passionate about it. The whole campaign means everything to me, because the care really saved my life,” he explains. “My situation back home was so dire, I almost certainly think without them I would have died. I wouldn’t be here today.”
Along with former Olympian Fatima Whitbread, who also grew up in a care facility, Archer-Morgan was invited to visit Action for Children’s Tan Y Bryn home in North Wales. It’s relatively new, having only been open for about two-and-a-half years, but it’s already having a hugely positive impact on young people – including 15-year-old Rhys, whose life has been transformed since he moved in.
“The healing had obviously saved his life too,” says Archer-Morgan, who was able to spend some time talking with Rhys. “And I met Dave, his primary carer, and standing right in front of me with Dave by his side, Rhys just said, ‘Dave is like a father to me.’ That says a lot about the work of Action for Children , really. ”
He admits he found the visit moving and it brought back memories of his own primary carer, Sister Ida – “an incredible woman” whose kindness and positive influence he still cherishes to this day.
“Every human being, to get by in the world, needs to have confidence in themselves. And that’s what the ‘Star in Every Child’ campaign is all about, to imbue every child in their care with self-confidence,” he says. “I’ve seen it play out in front of me with Rhys and Dave – and I feel emotional talking about it – but it was such a thing to see, this carer who had been everything to this boy growing up in very difficult circumstances. We “We’re lucky to have people like that in the world,” he adds, “we’re lucky to have organizations and people who really care about us.”
In addition to saving his life, growing up in care also shaped Archer-Morgan’s life. Before forging his way as an antiques specialist and joining the much-loved BBC One show in 2011, his eclectic career saw him work as a photography technician, DJ at various London hotspots in the 70s and 80s (including Ronnie Scott’s iconic jazz club) and as a celebrity hairstylist on TV and film sets, among others.
But no matter what, an appreciation for craftsmanship, creativity and artistry (which he studied at London’s prestigious Hornsey School of Art) has always been part of the picture – and skimming the markets, antique fairs and flea markets soon revealed a knack for “spotting a masterpiece” and sniffing out pieces that other people seemed to like. It all goes back, in one way or another, to his taking charge.
“I remember one of my earliest memories of excitement, we had many parties – there was no internet and social media and all that back then – where we all sat down to do some crafts, sewing, making things with paper and cardboard, sewing, and I was good at it and I loved art,” Archer-Morgan recalls. “Before, I was fascinated by a reproduction of a famous painting by William Holman Hunt in the lobby of the children’s home, called The Light of the World, and I wanted to copy prints and pictures and draw them. I just loved creating things, and that was really nurtured by living in the children’s home. »
He remembers going to museums as a schoolboy – even walking ‘halfway through London to the Imperial War Museum’ because he ‘didn’t have the ticket de bus” – armed with a sketchbook and pencils. “And I would go to the park and draw the trees.”
There’s something philosophical about the way Archer-Morgan talks about things and his approach to life – take his method of scouring the antique markets, for example. He was never one to run early.
“Everyone thinks early risers get the worm. But early risers rush in so fast, looking for the obvious worm, that they often miss the masterpiece. I’m going there later, and I’m not distracted by the bustle and people in a frenzy of finding something before everyone else I just want to find what they left behind – and what they left behind is often the masterpiece work,” he shares. “I believe if it’s for you, then it’s for you.”
Like the vintage Savile Row suits he found in a market, a week after finally realizing it was time to throw away the beloved Henry Poole suit he had worn to death. “I thought I would never get another suit from this suit. I walk into this market and there are two three-piece Henry Poole suits, my size, barely worn, and a sports jacket. How is it Luck? Can it be just It’s more than just luck.
“You have to do things with an open heart, an open mind and self-confidence,” adds Archer-Morgan. “Going back to Action for Children, they gave me this.”
When it comes to taking care of his health and well-being, he’s not one to follow fads or hit the gym. But he has always eaten a balanced diet and says he feels “very fit and healthy for my age” and “I have always taken care of myself”. He was never really sick.
“My lifestyle keeps me in shape,” he says. “I mean, bringing this elephant home – oh my God, it was heavy. It was a week of training in a few hours.” (He found a “fantastic and quite large wooden sculpture of a young elephant sitting on his haunches” in a market the day before this interview).
Never far from his favorite subject, Archer-Morgan enthuses: “It’s absolutely breathtaking. Where it gets me is, who did this? This person is now dust in the ground, but his capacity makes me want to cry – to see that elephant, the wrinkles on the back of his neck, in his trunk, it’s all there, the wood is like an elephant’s skin – I can’t understand.
“All these works of art carry messages, even if they are hidden,” he adds. “It may be up to us to unlock these messages.”
Ronnie Archer-Morgan supports the Action for Children’s Star in Every Child campaign for vulnerable children across the UK. Visit actionforchildren.org.uk/star