Report by Emma Stringfellow
Many Cestrians and visitors will be familiar with the Lego model of Chester situated in the current Chester indoor market. It is a mini world which features well known Chester buildings and institutions as well as famous and notable Cestrians and it changes to reflect the seasons and events happening in Chester. For those familiar with Jessie Burton’s Minaturist – it’s a more benign version telling the everyday story of a special English town .The model has been a welcome addition to the market, Karen Bates the CWaC Markets Manager underlines that “the model has played an important role in helping drive footfall into the market” and has helped raise the market’s profile, both through the money it has raised for charity ( over £1000 in 2 years) and also by providing good photo opportunities for visiting politicians and celebrities. Karen added “It’s about supporting local businesses. We are always looking at rejuvenating ourselves, what bespoke stores can we bring in here, how can we promote the market? There are things you wont find on the high street, so the Lego is part of that .”
Annie Hall, a market trader, who’s family who have had a stall in the market for its almost 50 years of existence was enthusiastic in her praise saying that “It’s been fantastic for the market, it has helped promote the market a lot as we were all suffering. The creator has been fantastic and has done more for the market than any of the councillors in Chester, from both sides.”
The good news is that the developers of the new market(scheduled for 2019) are in talks to provide space for the iconic model when the current market is closed, and I hope that this will bring it to the attention of even more people.
The Lego model is the brain child of @shitchester and unusually our very own man of mystery has given an interview on his pet project.
When did you start making Lego Models ?
I was a huge Lego fan when I was a child. It all ended up being sold and for years I never touched a Lego brick, until around 2009. I got some Lego free with a national newspaper and swiftly became addicted. I quickly built up a collection of sets and bricks. The Lego Chester theme didn’t come into play until a number of years later and the evolution of the @ShitChester account. Originally I created a section of the rows in 2014 after Funky Aardvark expressed an interest in displaying it and the model grew from there. I started with the rows because they were instantly recognisable as Chester.
Over the last two years I have added most of the icons of Chester including the Eastgate clock, the walls , the Northgate and Rosies. I have also enjoyed adding minifigures of well-known local figures such as the town crier, Mike Jones, the Lord Mayor etc. Mike liked his Lego figure so much that he asked for a copy of it.
I’ve had fun adding buildings you wouldn’t normally expect to see in Lego such as the now closed Platinum lounge strip club, as well as topical additions over time such as the Blacon police helicopter, dinosaurs in honour of the recent Dino trail, and a Christmas tree with a barrier around it. Other events I have depicted in Lego form include Chester Pride complete with Lego drag queens, the raft race, and the races featuring drunk racegoers. I’ve also added models in support of local businesses such as Rolys Fudge, Triactive and Corks Out. My favourite section is the Civil War breach of the walls (which happened where the Roman gardens are now located) .This required a lot of customisation of minifigures to create the opposing Parliamentarian and Royalist forces.
What do you enjoy about making Lego Models ?
I find it therapeutic and a good way of sharing my love of the city. The end result is that it raises money for charity and helps the market traders. I enjoy the creative process from deciding whatbuildings to add, to planning and construction. I take pleasure in adding details such as signage, some of which has been custom printed onto the Lego, to the interiors of buildings, patrolling Romans, and there is also a Spider man figure on the roof of McDonalds.As the seasons pass I make additions with Christmas scenes or supernatural figures at Halloween. Recently I was commissioned by CDEC , the leading provider of global education services in Cheshire, Halton, Warrington and Wirral, to produce a Brook street model.
How long does it usually take you to make a model ?
Usually a few weeks with building fitted around my job and other responsibilities. Normally I work from photographs and then try and plan how the look of the building can be captured with Lego. I use my existing brick supply before turning to Bricklink which is a specialised Lego marketplace where you can search for individual brick types, colour etc. Larger models take longer, particularly the Blue Coat school which was built over a month using several baseplates joined together and many brick shipments in the post.
Why did you decide to do an installation in the Market ?
As the model grew and expanded I knew that I wanted to display it. So our original home was in the window of Funky Aardvark on bridge street row. At this stage the model mainly consisted of the rows. I had also loaned the model briefly to the then Lord Mayor Jill Houlbrook for a banquet in the town hall. As the model grew bigger, thanks to my contacts in the market I jumped at the chance at the display space. I am very grateful for the support of the market traders and management as well as Maxiflow who constructed the display cabinet.
Would you describe yourself as an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego)?
Ye.s I am a keen follower of the Lego world and collect new sets as well as vintage. I have a a large Star Wars collection and have also collected some vintage castle and pirate sets lately from Chris’ Bazaar in the market. A highlight was last summer when we displayed the model at a brick fair in Staylbridge. It was great seeing people especially children react to the model, and also great that people recognised the buildings from the city. I think Lego’s universal appeal and place in popular culture is fantastic. In Chester we also have the cathedral build as well as the recent Bricks in Motion exhibition.
Will you be updating the Odeon model to reflect the Storyhouse extension ?
I expect there will be some changes in the new year . Going forward I am in talks with the developers of the new market who have confirmed that in 2019 I will be able to transfer the model across. This will be great publicity because I would love to reach out to wider audience with the display. The local press have been really supportive but would love the display to get wider attention and in turn raise more money for the charity
How do you select your charities ?
Originally through a connection in the market Hospice of the Good Shepherd were involved. We then moved onto SPACE who were just starting out at the time. After over a year I decided to change to fundraise for the Samaritans, following a blog I did about their work in Chester and also my own experience of mental health problems . It costs £80 a day for them to fund their services so anything I can raise via donations can make a difference.
You can see the lego display in Chester market hall, open Monday to Saturday.