Saturday, January 30, 2010

Airfix club

The Parker household has had an obsession with collecting Airfix annuals for a while. Like most, it starts with a desire to obtain them from second hand bookshops and charity shops and like most (see also, James Bond books) it failed miserably. Since this is the 21st Century, despite the lack of flying cars or anything remotely Gerry Anderson, we do have eBay and of course it can deliver.

So, this week has seen the postman trotting up the drive with packages of books and very nice they are too. Mostly aimed at military modellers, there is still interest for others as the techniques for altering figures and road vehicles are very usable. There are pieces for railway fans but most are Michael Andress making bizarre modifications to the L&Y Pug kit to produce ever more unlikely locomotives, a theme he carried on for many articles in many different magazines.

Younger readers might be surprised that Airfix ever produced an annual and wonder why. They are probably confused by the photo at the top of this entry, so perhaps some background is in order.

The photo is Dick Emery, a comedian from the old days. I remember watching his shows as a kid but more importantly he was the president of the Airfix Modellers Club. Every week in my copy of Buster comic there was a page for the club and at the top was a smiling picture of Emery with some short piece encouraging us to get ourselves into a hobby with smelly glues and paint. This wasn't a random celebrity being bought in to add glamour to a hobby that was seen as nerdish either, Emery really was a modeller and believed in what he was doing. The series in the comic ran from May 1974 to March 1981. By the end I wonder how many kids saw the page as an anachronism in a world of ZX81's and Vic 20's ?

Anyway, Airfix published a magazine for model makers of all ages but predominately the older ones. It covered the who range of the hobby so you'd have articles on warships next to railways next to war gaming. The last issue appeared in 1993, quite an achievement as general modelling mags don't seem to have a happy history in the UK. Model Maker for example ran for about 10 issues in the late 1970's and that had the background of a more glittering run 20 years earlier.

The annuals which began in 1970 were a spin off from the mag and were basically more of the same between hard covers. Some attempts were made to produce specials - one of those packages this week was an annual for military modellers - but generally they had something for everyone or not enough for anyone, depending on your point of view.

The Airfix club still exists but it looks much more like a marketing tool nowadays in the same way that the Bachmann Collectors club and Hornby Collectors Club are. Of course it still has to deal with making things rather than just buying them and stashing the results (mind you there are loads of people who collect unbuilt plastic kits and hoard them) so there is advice on offer. I bet they don't have a page in comics though.

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