Thursday, 25 August 2022

UK's Channel Five Viewing: "An Army of Experts" and the Archaeologists Will Tag Along

Metal detector dealer Graeme Rushton seems to have an over-active agent. No sooner has he finished appearing in "Henry Coles's Great British Treasure Hunt" (HCA Entertainment Ltd Oxfordshiure), he found a position as a "metal detecting expert" in a new show commissioned by Channel 5 from Yorkshire based independent production company Daisybeck Studios about metal detecting to (Daniel Pye, 'New channel 5 show about metal detecting to feature Unearthed team' NW Mail 25.08.2022)

A new Channel 5 show starting this week will feature a Furness expert showing Michaela Strachan and Dan Walker how to metal detect. Graeme Rushton is from Unearthed, a shop selling metal detecting equipment in Dalton. He has been part of previous shows on ITV and Channel 5. This new show, called Digging For Treasure, airs on Channel 5 at 9pm this Friday. Graeme will feature in the first episode for about five minutes as an expert but the second episode is set in Cumbria and Graeme is more prominent in it. His role in the second episode will not only be to show the presenters how to metal detect but also to introduce the local farmers and landowners to the hobby.
Graeme is reported as saying that he had been metal detecting for over 40 years and has "travelled all over the country doing TV shows". 
He said that the new show is 'massive' and Channel 5 casting stars such as Michaela Strachan and Dan Walker was to give the series some clout. Dan Walker described the series as the 'Top Gear of metal detecting.' The show will also feature Raksha Dave, who is a famous archaeologist. She has previously excavated in London.
She also just happens to be the President of the Council for British Archaeology and it is interesting to speculate on why this is played down here. 

Ms Dave herself responded to some earlier comments by me concerning the trailer of this upcoming programme that she is co-presenting on British TV (see here for my thoughts on what I saw). In connection with this,  I tweeted

"Trailer of this series, and involvement of CBA President @Raksha_Digs, raises series of questions about presentation of archaeology (and need to conserve the archaeological record) to UK's public. Where is "archaeology for all" going? Will there be debate?",

 and within minutes there was a reply.  

1/ Absolutely- the show has been built with the guidance of @findsorguk and we’ve had real editorial control over how we give the necessary guidance throughout the show. We never talk about value - we talk about the value of information in hope that people who think about… 2/Detecting, mudlarking, or whatever plug into the necessary guidance and are introduced to heritage practitioners. At the end of the day people do this as a hobby, my remit is how can we educate people into safe, best practice so we can all benefit from the information..
Unfortunately tv is entertainment- the title is a compromise on the original and the trailer unfortunately doesn’t really show the content of the show which is a mixture of archaeology prof and community, responsible finders and lovely stories about ppl who engage with heritage.
I remember when Time Team first started and there was a huge furore about archaeology as entertainment - this is the first ep of a 4 part series so we are all totally open about how we can make it better… ...and to open debate within our sector - at the end of the day public perception of archaeology comes historically from archaeologists who have equated it to ‘treasure’ so whether we talk about objects or sites content is the key to unpick - that’s what I’m interested in.
I don't know if she actually read what I wrote in the blog post to which I linked before answering. But it is interesting to hear the assertion that this is yet another show built with the guidance of the PAS like the damaging "Britain's Secret Treasures" that I wrote about extensively on this blog (and readers will remember that the CBA was deeply involved in that too). So, the President of the CBA is absolutely sure there will be a debate on artefact hunting. I'm happy to hear that, but doubt she's right. British archaeologists and the CBA  will run a mile from such a debate. 

But the plot thickens, the story gets a bit muddied when you start investigating it - for example as a place from which to start that promised "debate", if that's not to be a joke. 

Not only is the expert "showing Michaela Strachan [and all the viewers out there watching] how to metal detect" a dealer with a vested interest in as many people as possible being encouraged to take up this damaging hobby, Andy Brockman reports that other detectorists featuring in the series are in fact paying clients of a commercial artefact hunting firm, North Detecting Events owned by Mr Anthony Pickering (Sunderland). That's right, the CBA president is presenting a programme showing, and giving publicity to, commercial looting of what she described in the trailer as one of Britain's "most exciting archaeological hotyspots". How is this possible, and why? 

This is not my discovery, it was Andy Brockman at "thePipeline ("where history becomes tomorrow's news") who just made a few enquires more than the CBA ethics committee as part of their series #WeNeedToTalkAboutMetalDetecting ("BM Confirms PAS Not Involved in Design of Ch5 #DIGGING FOR TREASURE-Tonight", thePipeline August 22, 2022). Moreover, despite what Ms Dave asserts, the Portable Antiquities Scheme was not involved in designing the format of the new metal detecting show:
"Asked to explain how the Portable Antiquities Scheme came to be involved at all in a programme which appears to be centred on what was, to all intents and purposes, a metal detecting rally organised for a commercial television production company, the head of the PAS, Professor Michael Lewis, told thePipeLine, “Daisybeck contacted us once they had a commission, so we were not part of the series design. However we have agree[d] to participate to highlight the role of PAS and the importance of best practice and finds recording as best we can (in the context of above)".
Instead of just saying no. As for the presence of other "experts", a question was raised about this: " “As far as we’re aware, the ‘experts’ involved in the programme are not drawn from the trade in antiquities (auctioneers, valuers, etc.) and are being called upon for their archaeological/historic knowledge [NB: in fact, most of the experts are from the PAS]” The phrase “as far as we are aware” suggests that the PAS and the press office at the British Museum, may not be fully aware of quite what it is they have got into" says Mr Brockman. Time and time again this happens, British archaeologists are so eager to get on TV (explaining it gives the discipline "exposure") that they simply walk straight inyto situations like these, where what happens gives archaeology the wrong kind of exposure. And how could any programme on an object-centred collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record do any different? (serious question Ms Dave, Prof Lewis.)

Hat tip, Dave Coward and Andy Brockman for headsups and discussion.

1 comment:

Brian Mattick said...

Talk of this detectorist being an expert irks.

The makers of this programme may be interested to know that Heritage Journal already runs an online training course for those who wish to take part in an archaeological project. They may also be surprised that you can learn to metal detect for archaeological projects in about ten seconds! (Swing it low, swing it slow and stick a flag in where it beeps.) The point being, detectorists are selective in what they are looking for so learn to select only the “best” targets to dig up. That, and finding hot spots are their two skills, and they’re very good at them, whereas archaeologists want to know about everything that’s on a site so just want detectorists to tell them wherever they hear a beep, nothing else.
Here's the Prospectus:
1.) Start by being an amateur archaeologist, not a metal detectorist, thus having only ever been interested in gaining knowledge, adhering to archaeological standards and never pocketing stuff for personal fun or profit.
2.) Do exactly what the supervising archaeologist asks.
[Course duration: 10 seconds. Cost: £500.]


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