Chester in Lego: 2014- 2022

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Chester in Lego will close to the public on the 14th October prior to moving to the New Chester Market in November.

Friends made over the years

When/ if the history of @Shitchester is written, the big thanks will go to the account’s creator Jennie Povey, our early followers and supporters, especially those in the media, Cllr leader Mike Jones who sent us viral, and a massive thank you will go to those within Chester Market who enabled and supported the development and growth of the Lego display. In this blog I’ll be saying thank you and noting the display’s evolution over the years.

The model began as just another fun thing to tweet about and a way of indulging my real-life Lego addiction. The famous black and white sections of the rows were the first buildings, and the model was loaned to Lord Mayor Jill Houlbrook’s banquet at the Town Hall. Ex MP Stephen Moseley posted for a photo in front of it. After this, the now closed art shop/gallery Funky Aardvark expressed an interest in displaying the slowly growing model in their Bridge Street row shop window. The addition of Lego versions of members of the local community added a further element- Cllr Mike Jones even was given a copy of his own Lego minifigure As I added more models, and my imagination took flight the need for a larger and permanent home became clear.

After meeting Jamie Hall, the son of Annie Hall, owner of Jim’s Haberdashery in the market, the family were quick to act. The market in 2014 was in a poor place says Jamie:

“It was really struggling at the time. There were lots of empty stalls, improvements were underway, but local press were making a big joke about it all because they put little roofs over the stalls with drainpipes on due to the main roof failing. I remember David Holmes coming in, provoking traders for comments, saying “do you know how this looks to the public, they think it’s ridiculous” it really wasn’t going well at all. So, I said to Annie, they should let him do a charity display in here!”

Annie Hall, who traded in the market for over 50 years went straight to the market management. “Our suggestion was to put a display in the market with a charity box, and I went and asked if we could have a stall, and after some to-ing and fro-ing she decided yes and she put a Cabinet on one side of the stall. The other traders on the committee all agreed that it would be a good thing and when it was done, they loved it. ” Our opening charity was the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, one of 6 charities we worked with over the years, raising over £3000 via kind donations from the public.

Annie Hall played a key role in establishing the display
The earliest incarnation of the display in 2014.
Christmas celebrations.

A special visitor came as part of Labour’s election campaign when John Prescott visited the market, he noted the Lego Rosie’s (formerly Quaintways) where he had worked in the kitchens and met his wife. Shortly after this the display was doubled in size thanks to the very supportive market manager Karen Bates. Having this place in the market opened so many doors and made me so many contacts. I was asked to take the Brook Street sections of the model on a tour of 3 local schools ( as part of a community project. Also in 2016 we were lucky enough to take the model on tour to a regional Lego show. I developed a great relationship with the volunteers at Chester Samaritans and went on work with them on many other separate projects.

SPACE were a brilliant charity to work with
Supporting the Samaritans.
Support from Lord Mayor Bob Rudd
Sam Dixon MBE holds the Eastgate clock in her hands

Over the years we strived to make topical additions and added increasingly large constructions including a massive Steam Mill ,Storyhouse (expanded from the original Odeon model) and as much of the walls as we could fit in. It was fun adding E-Scooters, a Puma, bad Matt Hancock, Russ Abbot, friends, zombie Romans and Civil war men. The monkey killing the bird at the zoo was a popular one.

Seasonal displays were supported by publicity from Chester BID and a very kind local media, with many articles written by my friend Carmella de Lucia. Applying successfully for a TripAdvisor listing was a huge boost, rising to a highest chart placing of the 15th most popular thing to do in Chester. As the market headed for its 2018 revival, new traders joined and were befriended and blogged about it was a great community to be a part of.

2017; Signwriter Harry Mitton produced the signage on the display.
Pre pandemic glory days for the market

After the pandemic my visits to the market became less frequent as traders slowly departed. A virtual walk through of the display went online in April 2020 based on 3D photographs taken the previous summer. See . And although we couldn’t compete with the brick or advertising budget of Chester Cathedrals’ Lego model, a kind member of the public gifted us a small model Cathedral to complement our display.

The Keeper of the Lego David Payne. One of the best!

We never made it onto TV despite all the filming that takes place in Chester, even after badgering Terry Wogan’s BBC crew, and figures of Louise Minchin (with red sofa) and Lucy Meacock!

As the doors close on the market for the last time, and with some emotion now, thank you to Jamie, Anne and David for getting Chester in Lego in the market and opening up so many personal and professional opportunities. Certainly, without this display then I’d never have gained such a journalistic foothold and insight into the life of the city.

Thank you to all the market staff and management- nothing was too much, if I needed help counting out piles of coins, if a light needed fixing or some maintenance needed doing, a quote for a press release. In my last blog I considered the darkness, but it’s important to recognise that sometimes things do work out, people don’t let you down. Hopefully we’ve done a bit of good in the last 8 years!

“It was going downhill fast, and the Lego did bring people in.” says Annie. Of the market’s future she says “It’s just a sign of the times changing, people want different things, people have to change with habits, as one generation goes another one wants different things. I wish everybody in the new market all the luck! I hope it will be a big success in the New Market as well. I had my time in the market, I was in there 50 years, but my family have been in longer because they were in the old market as well. I was still in school when the market that’s closing now opened…I remember the first day, it was quite an experience! One of the fans fell out of the ceiling, luckily it didn’t hit anyone! ”

Thank you to everyone who has supported Chester in Lego over the last 8 years. Its cool when you’re part of a team.

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