If you’ve been to any major public gatherings in the last two years – especially charity focused events – it’s highly likely that you’ll have spotted a growing collection of startlingly realistic Star Wars characters in attendance – perhaps most notably a small army of Imperial Stormtroopers complete with weapons.
Despite their fearsome appearance, please don’t be alarmed; Jersey hasn’t been invaded by the Galactic Empire under the leadership of the corrupt Emperor Palpatine!
Rather, the various impeccably costumed, action-figures come-to-life that you see above, are members of The Jersey Garrison, a charitable group that began with one diehard Star Wars fan – who shall be known simply as ‘Paul’ – back in 2013.
In those early days, Paul noticed that wearing his movie quality Stormtrooper armour in public garnered quite a lot of positive attention, and it wasn’t long before he began to be joined by many other enthusiasts, many of whom have built their own costumes – typically sinking up to £2,000 each into their ‘builds’.
To date, the Jersey Garrison consists of no less than 10 ‘classic’ Stormtroopers, two Sandtroopers, one Shadowtrooper, a TIE fighter pilot, one Biker Scout, a ‘Greedo’ (bounty hunter), Darth Maul himself, a Tusken raider, a Royal Guard and the Rebel Pilot ‘Jek Tono Porkins’. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a few children’s costumes that join the fray on occasion; some Jawas (the short, rodent like scavengers found on Tatooine) and a ‘Gonk’ – or GNK Droid – characters too small to be played by adults.
Paul would prefer to keep the Garrison’s identities a secret, telling us simply that “the various actors come from a broad cross-section of the community, but all display an enormous passion and an amazing degree of creativity when it comes to building their costumes/armour. We have some brilliantly experienced model makers and prop masters on staff nowadays, and there’s always someone on hand to help members or even prospective members with their own costumes”.
That the costumes in question are of such good likeness to those seen in the movies is more than a matter of pride for Paul and his troopers. The group maintains a close allegiance with The 501st Battalion (501st.com) – a worldwide Star Wars costuming organisation with a section on their website that states:
“…The Legion is an all-volunteer organisation formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…”
In keeping with this commendable mission, the Jersey Garrison not only ensure their costumes are up to the 501st’s rigorous standards, but also that they use them for the good of those less fortunate. “From the very beginnings of the Jersey Garrison, the intention was always to do whatever we could to raise funds for local children’s charities”, Paul tells us. “So with this in mind, we take donations to attend birthday parties and other events, but we never charge charities or people that benefit from them”.
It works, too! To date, several charities have benefitted quite nicely from the attentions of the ‘troopers and their friends, including Help a Jersey Child – the garrison’s first chosen charity – who received £1500 last year, and most recently Jersey Children’s Charity & Friends of SCBU (special care baby unit) who were handed a cheque for £3000 (by a group of Stormtroopers and a Shadowtrooper) at their ‘5k for Little Wonders’ sponsored walk event, held on the 20th of September.
So, if you spot some Stormtroopers in the street, see Darth Maul at a dance marathon, find a TIE pilot at a classic car show or get a glimpse of Greedo at a food festival, go and say hi – and rest assured that they’re there to do good for their island, and not to conquer it for the Sith!
Their next event is a free (donations requested) charity Star Wars Concert with Jersey Premiere Brass at the Town Hall on November 20th starting at 7pm.