In the heart of Swindon, the Daleks, the iconic adversaries of the Doctor, are making a triumphant return to Children in Need after two decades of mysterious absence. Dave Latham, a former BT communications manager in Swindon, reminisces about the grand spectacle that unfolded 20 years ago when the Daleks took center stage in a creative fundraising initiative.
The Space Station Atrium
Latham, fueled by a desire for innovation, envisioned transforming the glass atrium at the North Star house into a space station for a Children in Need extravaganza. The Daleks, with their fearsome allure, were chosen to patrol this makeshift space domain.
“In my time, the Daleks were fearsome, they weren’t exactly cuddly. You wouldn’t see them opening up a coffee bar or being your neighbor. They’re not very nice. But what they do is attract people’s attention,” recalls Latham.
Crafting the Dalek Duo
The challenge, however, was obtaining two Daleks for the event. Enter John Chapman, a devoted Dr. Who enthusiast and former BT engineer. Chapman, despite the madness of the idea, took on the task with enthusiasm.
“I’ve been a Dr. Who fan all my life. I’d attempted a Dalek before, in my mum’s living room – not realizing that when you build a Dalek, they’re quite big,” chuckles Chapman. The project took six months, with Chapman ingeniously creating his plans based on a model kit. The end result was two fiberglass Daleks ready for action.
The Grand Event and Unforeseen Challenges
The 1996 Children in Need event unfolded with celebrities like Tom Baker gracing the occasion. The Daleks, both static and interactive, captivated the audience. However, the challenges didn’t end with the event.
In 2003, the Daleks reappeared in Swindon’s Designer Outlet Village but vanished within weeks, leaving Chapman devastated. “I couldn’t believe someone would take something like that,” he laments.
The Long-lost Daleks Resurface
Fast forward 18 years, and a surprising twist occurs. A phone call from John Darley, the man behind Project Dalek, informs Chapman that the Daleks have been found. The grey Dalek, in particular, piqued interest when someone sought its provenance.
“I was given a load of photographs which I shared with a few other members… and suddenly a light came on,” explains Darley. The Daleks, it turns out, had been stolen and later acquired by a Scottish collector.
A Reunion with the Daleks
Chapman, initially skeptical, traveled to a Scottish police station to retrieve one Dalek, while the other was found in Wiltshire. Remarkably, the Daleks required minimal restoration work.
“I was very surprised – they hadn’t been trashed or damaged or broken that much. To see the Tom Baker signature again – that was wonderful,” expresses Chapman.
The Daleks Return for Children in Need
With the Daleks back in their rightful place, the public can once again marvel at these iconic creations at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet in Swindon, all in support of Children in Need. The journey from a creative fundraising idea to an unexpected disappearance and a triumphant return highlights the enduring appeal of the Daleks and the community’s dedication to keeping the spirit of Children in Need alive.
In the ever-evolving tale of the Daleks, their journey from a Swindon space station to a mysterious disappearance and a joyous reunion is a testament to the enduring legacy of creativity and community spirit. As they stand once again, ready to engage with the public for a noble cause, the Daleks continue to capture hearts and support Children in Need, proving that even the most unexpected adventures can lead to heartwarming conclusions.
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