Fiona Bruce: 'I'm lucky to be part of such a jewel in the BBC's crown'
Presenter Fiona Bruce tells Gemma Dunn why the Antiques Roadshow, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, really is the perfect gig for her
Fiona Bruce is wincing as she recalls the first - and last - time she dabbled in reality TV. "I never, ever meant to get involved with it and it's far too long a story to tell you now, but when I thought I was saying 'no' it transpired somehow I was actually saying 'yes'," she maintains, referring to her 2006 stint on singing show Just the Two of Us.
"I made some very good friends on it - Penny Smith being one, who is still a very dear friend - so for that I am glad of the experience," she adds of the short-lived BBC One contest. "But it was without a doubt the most miserable TV experience I have ever had."
So with a further showcase of her vocal talents a no-go ("I would bring the ratings crashing through the floor"), how about strutting her stuff on the Strictly dance floor?
"I'm sure that's great and people love doing it and I love watching it, but no, it won't be me," Bruce, 53, insists with a laugh. "It's a blessing, honestly. If you saw me, you'd realise what a blessing that is."
Talents aside, however, the Beeb veteran has enough plates to juggle - from her regular slot on the broadcaster's Six O'Clock News to presenting family favourite, Antiques Roadshow. And with the latter's 40th anniversary on the horizon, its upcoming series looks set to be one of its best yet.
"I mean, 40 years and 10 years for me personally..." begins Bruce of the roadshow's landmark year. "It doesn't feel like that at all.
"It's still so popular," raves the Singapore-born Brit, who took the reins from Michael Aspel in 2008. "Very recently it was either, for one or two weeks running, the most watched BBC show of the week, so I feel I am hugely privileged and lucky to be part of such a jewel in the BBC's crown. I love doing it, I really love doing it."
Bruce will mark the occasion with an episode filmed at the magnificent Castle Howard in Yorkshire, in which viewers are invited on a trip down memory lane alongside veteran expert David Battie, who holds the record as the longest serving member of the team, and Bruce Parker, the programme's first ever presenter.
There will, of course, be plenty of extraordinary finds too. From a pencil sketch bought for a few pounds that could be a lost work by Renoir to a rare letter in which Charles Darwin admits he made a mistake in The Origin Of Species.
Though Bruce is clear on the enduring appeal of the show: its people.
"The people we're watching are people like ourselves, aren't they?" observes the star, who also co-hosts teatime favourite, Fake or Fortune? "It could be us who's got something that we inherited from our grandparents or that we found in the house when we moved in.
"I think there's a 'what is it worth?' moment," she notes. "But there are great stories [and] I'm a journalist, stories are my meat and drink. Every week I am surprised by what comes along, by the fact that these extraordinary finds are still coming out from the woodwork. If you're professionally nosey, which I am, what a great job."
But with real-life stories comes feeling, admits Bruce, as she reels off heartfelt anecdotes from past finds and their owners.
"[It's harder] in news," she says of keeping her own reactions in check. "Listen, sometimes these things bring me to tears, but the fact is my emotion must never overwhelm either the story or the emotion of the owner, because it is his or her story.
"I'm only human, so of course they move me, but that can never be the dominating feature," she elaborates. "That would almost be insulting, it's their story to tell and their emotion is what counts. Mine doesn't matter.
Does she enjoy the change of pace from the newsroom?
"I do, I really enjoy it," Bruce responds - her other "job" being mother to her two teenagers with husband Nigel Sharrocks. "I think people are intrinsically interesting and I like to hear what they have to say. I am never bored by that, I am just interested."
Having been in the industry for the best part of three decades (the stalwart started out as a researcher on BBC's Panorama), Bruce has seen her fair share of changes on the box. "I think for women, clearly there are far more women on television than there used to be," she muses. "And there are far more women behind the scenes and in positions of power than there used to be. That's definitely changed. It ebbs and flows a bit, but the trend is definitely up.
"And gender pay, you know about," she states, in reference to the BBC's recent pay disclosure, of which Bruce's annual salary was also made public. "I think transparency is crucial. The BBC had to do it, so it's done it, and you've seen the response there's been so we'll see what happens."
- Antiques Roadshow, BBC One, tomorrow, 8pm