In 1980, my Dad took me to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. I was completely mesmerised and became a huge fan, filling up my list to Santa with requests for Star Wars action figures, play sets and jigsaws. More than 36 years later, I took my Star Wars fandom to another level by deciding to become one of the film’s most iconic bad guys, the stormtrooper.
After researching stormtrooper costumes online, I discovered a whole collective of fans with similar ideas – the 99th Garrison, a local non-profit organisation based in the UK. All of its members are volunteers who come together to raise money for good causes and spread the magic of Star Wars by appearing at fundraising events, conventions and shopping centres. All of the costumes they wear are built from scratch, usually supplied in kit form, involving a lot of time and effort to trim and put together. Membership to the group means every detail of your costume has to be ‘screen accurate’ to the original movie props.
After buying what can only be described as a big box of white plastic parts from a guy I met through Facebook, I began the challenge of figuring out how to assemble it. The kit is based on original moulds taken from the film props created during production of the 1977 movie, ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. It took months to complete but finally I was ready to submit my application to the group.
Yesterday, I was very proud to take part in my first troop. I was joined by a fellow stormtrooper, a biker scout, Boba Fett, and the Dark Lord himself, Darth Vader. We marched through Newcastle to pay a visit to the children’s ward of the RVI and then on to the Tyne Bridge. This was the Newcastle leg of a 400-mile walk that a guy called Gavin Harrison is doing for Children In Need. He’s walking from Coldstream to BBC TV Studios in London dressed as Darth Vader. He’ll end his journey by entering the stage of the live show on 18th November. Good luck Gavin, a great cause and I was so pleased to play a part in it. May the force be with you.