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Doctor Who fans materialise for Sheffield convention

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HIGHLIGHT: SHEFFIELD'S first Doctor Who convention materialises in the city centre this weekend.

Among the fans of the time traveller heading to the event will be Andy Swinden, co-owner of Galaxy 4 in Broomhill, one of the country's leading suppliers of all things Time Lord.

Sheffield-born Andy, aged 46, dates his interest in the long-running series to his childhood and the era of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. "I can't really remember hiding behind the settee but I'm sure at some point I must have," he says.

The programme's mixture of fantasy and adventure captured the young Andy's imagination. "I know Doctor Who used to be criticised for wobbly sets but looking back it wasn't obvious at the time. They're not as bad as many people make out."

Once Andy had left school and started work he began to lose track of the series. A decision to work in retail meant he missed many early Eighties episodes. "In those days videos were the stuff of Doctor Who; nobody had them."

All this changed one day in the mid-1980s, when Andy was in a city centre bookstore. "I just happened to pass a display of Doctor Who books. It triggered something inside me. I must have bought around 12 titles and took them home."

Although the show went off air at the end of 1989, this coincided with the videos being released for the first time. "There was a huge amount of merchandise released during this period, which fed the fans' need."

It was around this time that Andy got his first taste for the business side of Doctor Who when he attended a Sheffield Comic Fair and decided to try and make a little bit of money from excess items in his burgeoning collection.

Although he enjoyed some success on the selling side, he was also approached by a number of people offering to sell bulk items. Andy bought one for his own collection and then put the rest up for sale. Without realising it at the time, this was the big bang that would lead to the formation of Galaxy 4.

"Someone said we had so much stuff we'd be opening a shop next and we thought, 'that's not such a bad idea'."

Andy, along with business partner Ben Keywood, opened the shop in 1996, naming it after an early Doctor Who episode.

"After the first six months I had to make the decision to give up my day job or employ someone to help Ben out. I took the plunge and I've never looked back."

Since opening Galaxy 4, Andy and Ben have seen some signifiant changes in Broomhill. "It was a much more varied shopping experience when we opened in 1996 but it's still a great place to be. The traders are brilliant, even if there isn't the range of businesses there once was."

The biggest impact on Galaxy 4 has been the advent of the internet.

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