An Old Friend
Found while surfing the news
IN A quiet suburban street, horrors are lurking ...
Ray Phillips's home is one of the worst nightmares the universe has to offer.
And he could be forgiven for wishing his garage was bigger on the inside.
While most blokes in their mid-40s keep nothing more exotic than the bumper off a 78 Escort tucked away, Ray's garage is home to a Dalek.
And a Cyberman.
Ray is a mainstay of the Hyde Fundraisers, a group of Dr Who fans who have raised more than £100,000 for charity since 1985.
Initially based in Manchester – hence the name – the fund-raisers now have members across the country.
Like many members of the group, Ray, a community development officer with South Tyneside Council, fell into it by accident, but soon found it taking over his life.
"I was a Dr Who fan as a kid, but I left it behind during my teenage years," he recalls.
"I was teaching digital photography and one of my learners wanted a picture of a Dalek. We searched on the Internet and I came across the 1973 Radio Times Dr Who special, where they had actually published plans to make a Dalek.
"They weren't accurate – I think they were deliberately inaccurate – but I looked at those plans and thought, 'I could do that, I did that at school.'
"So I built this Dalek – then I thought 'What do you DO with a Dalek?'"
Ray soon discovered he was far from alone in his efforts to recreate the metal meanies from Skaro.
"In the process of building it, I had come across the Dalek Builders' Guild, an online community with more than 1,000 members, and learned the plans I had were inaccurate – so I built a new Dalek, which is the one I have got now.
"I had heard about the Hyde Fund-raisers from my contact with the Guild and I thought I would offer the Dalek's services.
"Everything since has developed from that."
Now Ray, who lives in Washington, has 11 costumes – including two Cybermen, Brannigan the cat pilot, a scarecrow, a Star Wars stormtrooper and even the Predator.
He makes the costumes and masks himself in his garage. The walls are lined with reference photos and models.
So how long does it take to create a monster?
"There's no real average," he says.
"Something like the scarecrow was a very quick sculpt – I did that in about three hours, but with something like a Cyberman, when you need to get a very smooth finish, takes a lot longer – anything from 24 to 30 hours."
When I called by, 45-year-old Ray was playing host to fellow Fundraisers Mick Handy, 37, and 19-year-old Rob Ritchie.
All three travel thousands of miles a year attending events across the country.
Over the last four years, Ray has travelled 17,800 miles on Fundraisers' business and this year alone, he has clocked up 6,000 miles.
That includes two trips to London to film EastEnders, for scenes in which newly-weds Bradley and Stacey attend a Dr Who convention.
Mick, a bus driving instructor when he's not trying to enslave humanity, has been part of the group since 2005.
He said:"I visited Ray's house one night – I hadn't seen him for a while – and I realised he had a Dalek in his living room.
"He told me about the Fundraisers and I said 'That sounds like fun' and that if they ever had any events near to home, I was quite willing to get dressed.
"We went to the South Tyneside Hospital children's ward. It was the first time I had ever dressed up as a Cyberman and I was hooked from there."
Mick has roped in son Scott to help and the pair make a suitably scary Dr Constantine and the Empty Child.
Luckily, 10-year-old Scott is a massive fan of the new series and only too happy to don a gas mask and wave a collecting bucket.
Rob, a student at Newcastle College, was originally drafted into the Fundraisers by Durham-based member Phil Robinson, to help with the group's amateur video production The Trial of Davros.
"In 2004 I was at the Dimensions Convention in Stockton," he recalls.
"Phil was there and I recog
nised him from the year before. I mentioned I did computer generated imagery and he asked if I would be willing to do something for The Trial of Davros."
Because the Fundraisers originated in Manchester, a lot of the group's work is still based around the North West. Ray, Mick and Rob are keen to get some more appearances on home turf organised.
"There are no particular criteria, though we don't do birthday parties or weddings," says Ray.
"We support Children in Need as our main charity – that's part of our arrangement with the BBC, that they allow us to use these copyrighted characters.
"But we do also help smaller charities – it all depends upon the location and the availability of members, because we are all volunteers."