In the early 1970s I was a young teacher in Nottingham. Into a new block of furnished flats in Rise Park, I moved myself, my clothes, my sewing machine and my little black and white television from home. After a while I acquired a chipboard self-assembly bureau, which was every bit as awful as it sounds. I covered it in Fablon sticky backed plastic and stood the TV on top. On it I watched Saturday morning children’s programmes and pop shows featuring singers in Fairisle tank tops and my boyfriend watched everything else.
One of the quiz shows he watched was filmed at studios in Nottingham. Friends and friends of friends knew some of the locally recruited talent which worked the cameras, cleaned the studios and decorated the sets. One of the girls employed to decoratively point at the fridges, television sets and other consumer goods offered as prizes was known to come from a part of Nottingham called West Bridgford. Every time she appeared, pointing at a fridge, my boyfriend and I chorused ‘Oh look, there’s that girl from West Bridgford.’
Fast forward thirty years to the Millennium Christmas for which my former boyfriend, now my husband, (still deeply enamoured of the television) decided we should get cable television, probably because nobody has yet thought of a TV you can wear dangling in front of your face hanging off your hat.
As the cable engineers departed my husband took control of the remote, stood right in front of the screen and, with a deep sigh of satisfaction began flicking channels. Seated behind him in one of the chairs which has, in theory, a view of the screen, I listened to his running commentary.
‘Sport, news, current affairs, reruns, pop, oh, how strange, this is like, um, shopping on television, for, oh how weird, jewellery aaarrrgh!’ he said as I shoved him out of the way and grabbed the remote. Transfixed I stood, the seeds of a great love affair sprouting inside me. Quite suddenly I understood his extreme enthusiasm for television. Oh joy, lovely bits of jewellery, on television, for sale and look at the prices! I had a table top jewellery business in the early eighties and knew the costs of getting cut stones and precious metal findings to assemble; the prices for finished items on screen were considerably less than my cost prices would have been for the materials to make the jewellery. I stood stunned, staring at the jewellery, while my husband stood, staring at the presenter.
‘Look,’ he said, ‘look at that lady, where have we seen her before? I know her.’
‘Oh!’ we chorused, ‘it’s that girl from West Bridgford!’
So it was, and still is. Julia Roberts is her name. Via various television jobs Julia arrived at QVC the shopping channel just as they were starting up in London and has been there pointing at lots of things, few of them fridges, ever since.
I wondered about the jewellery at QVC. I watched the channel for some months; as soon as they acquired that new-fangled and wonderful thing, a web site, I emailed them and asked a very open ended question about their attitudes to conflict diamonds. Having dabbled in the jewellery trade I had quickly learned of the problems generated world wide by having valuable rocks in the ground beneath anyone’s feet. Human rights abuses are widespread in an industry where the source material is invariably located somewhere remote and tricky and passes through numerous hands to get to the end user.
Nothing happened for a fortnight, then, up on QVC’s nice new website there appeared a very full and complete statement about QVC ethics. It laid out very clearly that suppliers must use workers who were free and working in proper conditions across all areas of selling, not just the jewellery, and a great deal many more issues that I hadn’t thought anyone would be able to stipulate, let alone enforce. Size has great benefits in this respect. A huge business sourcing goods can insist on standards and QVC does. If you go on to their website www.qvcuk.com and scroll down to the corporate section and the vendor information you can access the super dooper uber picky requirements which ensure that QVC jewellery is something that will make you happy to own.
Not for the first time QVC exceeded my expectations. I began shopping and have been happily doing so ever since because I think, if I’m spending money on goods, it should benefit me and everyone else involved, from the person on the end of the pickaxe to the packer in the QVC warehouse.
After a decade of remote transactions I have been invited to a QVC customer event. Tomorrow I’m going to London to a Gem Day preview. At this event there will be a lot of customers, some QVC models, quite a bit of jewellery and a QVC presenter. I rang to enquire if I could photograph and blog the event and asked who the presenter would be.
Yes I can and yes it is.
It’s that girl from West Bridgford!
Gem Day on QVC is on Tuesday but with a bit of luck and a following wind I’ll tell you all about it here as I finally get to grips in person with two of the loves of my life (television shopping and jewellery) and finally get to meet (possibly, depending on how many other customers there are) that girl from West Bridgford.
JaneLaverick.com – star struck!