Doctor Who Collector extraordinaire David J Howe

A Gallifreyan Newsroom Exclusive by David J Howe

For as long as I can remember I’ve been collecting DOCTOR WHO merchandise and ephemera. It’s been something that has been with me for as long as I can recall. The first items I got which I still have are the 1972 Piccolo edition of THE MAKING OF DOCTOR WHO, and the Target books which started in 1973 … I then have cuttings from Radio Times from 1974 onwards …  it’s been a fun time seeking out and collecting items for nearly all my life!

But along with that passion, has been a desire to display them. I have always had a DOCTOR WHO room in my house. From my bedroom at my parent’s house, to the first house I bought when I got married – we had a DOCTOR WHO room there!  A spare bedroom given over to all the bits and pieces that I had collected. Then when we moved again, it was a converted attic room which became the display room and office … and another house later on also had a large bedroom dedicated to the collection …  But as these things go, each time my collection grew to overspill from the space we had available at the time …  And so when another house move beckoned, I really wanted to try and solve the problem for good!

So we started looking for a house with outbuildings, or similar, which we could use as a proper Museum … and we found what we needed in Lincolnshire!  We managed, in May 2014, along with a house, to buy a business premises which was ideal for what I wanted. It was large, roomy, solidly built, and pretty much perfect!  The only problem was money!  Because the house that we had also bought ended up needing so much work doing to it to make it habitable (including a new boiler, dry lining nearly every room, and issues with the roof which needed fixing), the money that we had set aside for developing the Museum had to be channelled into that instead … but never mind, I had a good job and would be able to pay for both in time!

But then, in May 2015, I suffered a massive heart attack, and very nearly died! I was in hospital in Cardiff for a week, and also I couldn’t work for 6 months, and we had no money coming into the house and so had to live off whatever I had saved … After the 6 months convelescence, the job I had let me go (I am an IT contractor so there’s no protections) and so I was out of work again. I managed to find something at the start of 2016, but this was only 3 months, and since then there has been nothing!  So the whole Museum dream was crumbling before my eyes!  We had the premises, we had all the things to display, but we had no money to do the essential work needed to turn the Unit from a ‘spidery shed’ into the nice, clean, Museum area we needed …

Before we started

So at the end of 2016, my wife Sam and I decided that the only thing we could do was to try a fundraiser online and see if we could get the money that way … and it was partially successful … we managed to raise about half what we needed thanks to the incredible generousity of DOCTOR WHO fans all over the world!

So we started work on it at the start of 2017 … The first thing that was needed was to level the floor – the building had huge troughs running the entire length (it used to be a rabbit farm!) and these had to be filled with concrete to level the floor …  then the walls and ceiling of the display area all needed battoning, insulating and boarding, to remove the unsightly walls and metal ceiling …  Along with this we had to make repairs on the roof to stop it leaking when it rained, and to undertake some groundswork outside to try and manage the water around the property and to stop it seeping in … And also the electrics needed rewiring for new lights and sockets throughout.

Something of a spidery shed with large troughs in the floor

So far this is all we have managed to achieve.  The battoning and boarding have ended up taking far longer than expected as every piece has to be cut by hand as nothing is square and even in the building … plus we can only afford to do half the space I had originally intended – the money we had just would not stretch!  We have added our own funds to it as various payments and pensions mature and allow us access to more funds … but work is slow!  We have managed to get about half the area needed completed (apart from the floor), and there are plans to try and complete the rest this year.

Concrete being poured and the floor levelled

I am at the moment hoping that we can get the museum ready for ‘public show’ in Summer 2018 … but this depends on funds not running out, and the builders being able to get what we need done in time.

Batoning out the museum area – walls and ceiling

Once we have walls, floor and new lighting all installed, then I need to purchase display cabinets and bookshelves, and then I can finally start to unpack the hundreds of boxes which have been sitting, waiting patiently for some three years now (and others which have not been looked at for some 15 years!)  I know that we have suffered some damage to items – a box of advent calenders has been attacked by mice, and we have some mildew on other items … which is  so frustrating for me as until the museum area is ready, I cannot properly unpack and see what state everything is in!  I am obviously hoping that most things are OK and can be retained …

A sort of completed corner of the Museum area …

The idea is that it will be a Private Museum. So you cannot just turn up and see it.  It’s only going to be available for viewing by prior appointment. We are also hoping to have some Open Days – garden party type events, with food and drink and music, maybe some DOCTOR WHO guests too, and those attending will get the chance to see the Museum as well … But it’s early days and we’re still working out how best to manage all this.

What is so exciting for me, is to finally be able to display and show the vast collection of things that I have amassed over a lifetime of collecting … there are some original props and costumes as well, toys and games, models and books and magazines … as well as production paperwork and photographs … there’s so much I have in my boxes and files that I’d like to share with people …

David J Howe has been involved with Doctor Who research and writing for over thirty years. He has been consultant to a large number of publishers and manufacturers for their Doctor Who lines, and is author or co-author of over thirty factual titles associated with the show. He also has one of the largest collections of Doctor Who merchandise in the world. David was contributing editor to Starburst Magazine for seventeen years from 1984 – 2001. Since 1994 he was book reviews editor for Shivers Magazine until it ceased publication in 2008. In addition he has written articles, interviews and reviews for a wide number of publications, including Fear, Dreamwatch, Infinity, Stage and Television Today, The Dark Side, Doctor Who Magazine, The Guardian, Film Review, SFX, Sci-Fi Entertainment, Collectors’ Gazette, Deathray and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

He edited the bi-monthly newsletter of the British Fantasy Society from 1992 to 1995, and also edited and published several books for them, including the British and World Fantasy Award shortlisted Manitou Man, a limited edition hardback and paperback collection of short fiction by horror author Graham Masterton.

He wrote the book Reflections: The Fantasy Art of Stephen Bradbury for Dragon’s World Publishers and has contributed short fiction to Peeping Tom, Dark Asylum, Decalog, Dark Horizons, Kimota, Perfect Timing, Perfect Timing II, Missing Pieces, Shrouded by Darkness and Murky Depths, and factual articles to James Herbert: By Horror Haunted and The Radio Times Guide to Science Fiction. He wrote the screenplay for Daemos Rising, a film released on DVD by Reeltime Pictures in 2004. In 2010 David was asked to work on another Doctor Who  related screenplay by Reeltime Pictures. The resulting project was announced in March 2013, as White Witch of Devil’s End, a series of Talking Heads style monologues. David wrote the story, Daemos Returns, for this, and co-edited the finished screenplay. White Witch of Devil’s End stars Damaris Hayman, reprising her role as Olive Hawthorne, first seen in the Doctor Who serial The Daemons.

Another notable work of fiction is talespinning, a collection containing David’s many short story pieces and screenplays. Other short fiction, co-written with Sam Stone, Survival of the Fittest¸has recently appeared in the April Moon Books anthology, Flesh Like Smoke.

He is currently Editorial Director of Telos Publishing Ltd, a UK based independent press specialising in horror/science fiction Novellas, crime novels, and guides to a variety of film and TV shows. In 2006 the company won the World Fantasy Award for their publishing work and in 2010 and 2011 won the British Fantasy Award for Best Small Press.

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