A touch of Hollywood is coming to Milton Keynes with the launch this spring of the National Film and Sci-Fi Museum here in the new town, and the stars will come out to play, too, writes Sammy Jones.
The venture will ensure the preservation of film and television history and is the brainchild of film fan extraordinaire Jason Joiner; the same man responsible for delivering the huge Collectormania events in MK, which ran for 14 years.
For Jason, grabbing a bag of popcorn and settling back to enjoy a movie was never going to be enough to satisfy his passion for the movies. The big screen suckered him and he has never escaped its allure.
“When I was seven I watched Star Wars at the cinema, and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing; the lasers, the ships, the excitement. Like many children, I loved it and had some of the toy figures,” he said.
Jason comes from a family of collectors – his mother had a penchant for antique dolls, while his father collected toy fire engines, and even boasted a full-size one in his collection.
When he saw Return of the Jedi, he started snapping up the figurines and by the time he was 16, Jason was amassing a collection from around the world.
Things ramped up quickly: “By the time I was 20 I had managed to buy an original Darth Vader costume from The Empire Strikes back, and by age 30 I was in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Star Wars collection in the world, with more than 250,000 items.”
And no, that isn’t a typo. But that figure has since doubled and he owns more than half a million items of Star Wars memorabilia.
The museum will occupy the largest space on the first floor of Lloyds Court, in the heart of town.
At first look, the building might seem quite nondescript, but looks can be deceiving and this is absolutely one of those times – the building is a special space.
The block was one of those first erected as the town took shape, and has stood in the spot since 1976.
“I believe that it originally housed some of the architects who were designing and overseeing the building of the shopping centre. Certainly, with its big windows and location it would have had great views of the centre as it sprang up around them,” Jason said.
“Aside from the location, the architecture really lends itself to our museum; many of the movies which will feature in our displays were created in the 1970s and 80s, and utilised similar buildings, so it’s pretty perfect.”
What started as a few bits and pieces housed in the corner of a bedroom has expanded – and today Jason needs five hangers to keep his artefacts and relics in.
Not content with ‘just’ Star Wars rarities, Jason decided to expand further, and began picking up film and television props. He now has in excess of 5000 pieces that have been featured in some of the world’s biggest films. Opening a museum to allow other film fans the chance to share in their enjoyment was obvious.
“It’s time to do something to keep them safe for future generations, they are important artefacts and the museum will ensure they are kept secure for decades to come, and will be available for everyone to enjoy,” Jason said.
“The things that will be on display are mostly one off items and are being displayed for the first time so there will be a lot to see and learn from the museum,” Jason promises, “It will be world class.”
Displays from Star Wars and Indiana Jones to Ghostbusters and Harry Potter will wow visitors, along with many other key props and awesome costumes, art, photos and footage featuring in this ‘cathedral dedicated to the blockbuster.’
In a collection bursting with iconic bits and pieces, it can be difficult to choose one ‘stand-out’ piece over another, but George Lucas’ handwritten script for Star Wars is pretty spectacular; so too Indiana Jones’ costume (complete with hat and whip). And if there are any Doctor Who fans wondering ‘What happened to the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver?’ The answer to that lies with Jason too.
Jason’s day job is running Comic Cons across Europe. He and his team deliver around 80 every year, although the pandemic has pressed the pause button on those for the moment, of course.
“My love of all things sci-fi means that it is more of a way of life than a job, though,” he admits, “Getting to know the likes of Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith is nice, and we have some well-known people that will help us with the museum. The plan is to have famous faces in attendance at the weekend to meet fans, a little like we used to when Collectormania was here.”
And anyone who remembers those huge successes will recall that the events brought stars including Carrie Fisher, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and Robert Englund to town.
Certainly it will be the only dedicated museum of its type in the UK. It’s another first for Milton Keynes in a town used to breaking new ground.
Items on display will change every few months, ensuring there is always something new for visitors to see, and there are enough key pieces to be able to rotate them at the museum for 30 years without duplicating items.
“We are a charity and are looking to cover costs, as opposed to making huge sums of money,” Jason promised, “Any profits will be ploughed straight back into the museum and used for restoration projects and acquiring new items.”
The pandemic might prove an irritant, but if things go according to plan, the museum is set to have its own premiere in the spring and promises to bring movie magic to the masses.
For the latest information on the National Film & Sci-Fi Museum visit www.facebook.com/NFSMuseum
Anyone interested in assisting with building work, or who may have items or film memorabilia suitable for the museum should contact firstname.lastname@example.org