Who’s done well then? And birthday bash will be a Bonnie night

Andy Swinden pictured at Galaxy Four at Broomhill.
Andy Swinden pictured at Galaxy Four at Broomhill.
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TO the Time Lord himself, of course, 15 years is barely the blink of an eye.

TO the Time Lord himself, of course, 15 years is barely the blink of an eye.

Bonnie Langford

Bonnie Langford

But when two superfans opened their Doctor Who dedicated store in Broomhill in 1996 – one of only two shops devoted to the show in the world, they reckon – they never dared dream a decade and a half on they could still be trading.

“On that first day,” muses Andy Swinden, one of the pair behind Galaxy 4 in Glossop Road. “I remember thinking ‘I just hope someone turns up’.”

They did.

And, like the Doctor himself, they have been materialising ever since.

From all over the world, they come, attracted to this little TARDIS-sized unit by the vast range of books, DVDs, posters, toys, figurines, scarves, T-shirts, artwork, bedding and...

Hang on. Bedding?

“I guess Doctor Who fans are pretty dedicated,” laughs Andy, who has organised an in-store appearance by former star Bonnie Langford as part of the anniversary celebrations.

And they come from all over the world? Really?

“Well, they don’t travel to the UK specifically,” says Andy, 47, of Nether Edge. “But yeah, we had a couple of Australians in recently.

“I’d dealt with them by mail order for ages and they were in Birmingham so they drove up – it’s nice when that happens and you put a face to the name after so many years.”

It was 1994 when Andy – today sat amid the back room clutter of life sized Daleks and Cybermen – met future business partner Ben Keywood, 40, of Gleadless, at a city convention.

The pair quickly became friends over a mutual love of Tom Baker – “probably because he was the Doctor of our youth,” remarks Andy. “You can always tell a fan’s age by his favourite Doctor.”

They began trading together but found they were often coming back from conventions with more stuff than they had gone with.

“It got to a point where someone joked we should open a shop and we sort of looked at each other and said ‘That’s not a bad idea’,” says Andy, who was previously a financial advisor. “We used to go round the Broomhill charity shops looking for videos, and one day we stumbled on the empty shop, and went for it.”

They opened in May 1996. Galaxy 4 was so named after an early episode.

“Things have changed since then,” says Andy. “The internet has been a blessing and a curse – we get customers from all over the world but there’s also more people selling second hand stuff.”

As a result the store’s stock is now almost all official first-hand merchandise, while they have diversified slightly, selling a few other superhero comics and posters.

“It’s been a dream job,” says Andy. “I’m not as much of a fan as when I started but it’s lovely when people come in and they’re excited, and it’s nice that the store has built up a reputation for having a community – there’s fans who’ll meet here then go for a pint.

“Customers do come in and just start talking to each other. Sometimes it can get heated if they disagree about who their favourite Doctor Who was but there’s never been a fight. Yet.”

Now he and Ben are preparing for that Bonnie Langford visit on August 13, and looking forward to another 15 years.

Here’s one store it seems which, despite the internet, the recession and the endless debate over the best Doctor, will not be exterminated.