Andy McConnell’s talk at the Mermaid Inn last Friday was the tour-de-force that anyone who knows him has come to expect. A whirlwind autobiography included being shipped off to Australia by his parents in despair at his lack of interest in a normal career. He took to journalism and joined the Suffolk Free Press back home before a lucky break took him to Los Angeles “the centre of the universe” in 1972, aged 19. He stayed four years and made a name for himself as a rock correspondent, writing for music magazines.
He returned to Europe accompanying the American Starship rock band in 1977, but that marked another change of direction. He was developing an interest in glass under the tutelage of a German glass dealer based in Hamburg. It took him five years to write his first book “The Decanter” followed by one on 20th century glass. Meanwhile, he earned a living restoring old houses, before purchasing the glass emporium in Rope Walk.
Invited onto the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, he quickly became a fixture and an acknowledged expert, despite his unconventional approach and throwaway humour, almost street theatre. He claims to have brought rock journalism to glassware and has been given free rein by the producer to “do his own thing”. He gave an insight into the Roadshow and what makes it so successful in the TV ratings. As a professional performance it involves some 150 people at prestigious venues like the British Museum, Chatsworth and Wimbledon, for example. He showed us a slide of himself on the sacred Centre Court, racket in one hand and wineglass in the other.
His talk was given on behalf of local charity ARRCC, Activities, Respite, Rehabilitation, Care Centres of which he is patron.
Andy McConnell clearly derives tremendous pleasure from meeting all sorts of people and he communicated this well to the audience on this occasion.
Photos: Rye and District Camera Club